Epidemics occur when infectious disease becomes widespread in a community or certain area. An example is the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. In conjunction with our campus partners, School of Medicine personnel are continually monitoring potential epidemic threats that could impact our faculty, staff and students.
Influenza (flu) is a potentially serious illness that affects the Washington University community every year. It is a contagious respiratory illness that typically cycles annually, with a peak in January or February. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and headache. A pandemic flu is a global outbreak, typically of new flu strands, which can spread rapidly, causing overloaded healthcare systems, inadequate medical supplies and a disrupted economy. Such outbreaks can have significant impacts on WashU operations.
How to prepare before it happens
- Keep at least 2 weeks of food and water on hand. Supplies may run low at stores.
- Maintain copies of health records from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other sources, for personal reference.
- Plan for the impact on your department and employees, including extensive absenteeism.
- Establish policies to be implemented, such as flexible worksite/work hours, preventing the spread of disease, restricted travel, etc.
- Ensure adequate resources are available, such as hand-hygiene products, information technology infrastructure, etc.
What to do when it happens
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve
- Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean
- Try not to use other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work equipment
- Minimize group meetings
What to do right after it happens
- Ensure a thorough cleaning of all work spaces, including equipment and common surface areas.