Laucala swine flu case

Dear editor,

I wish to use this column to respond to what James had expressed in this paper under the above heading, and to let others know what really happened here at USP Laucala with regards to the influenza A (H1N1) Pandemic 2009.

As a daily reader of the Solomon Times Online, it is interesting to note that James has urged our Solomon Islands government to pressure USP to try and control the spreading of influenza A (H1N1) as far as Solomon Islands' future workforce are concern. From analytical dimension, it appears that there are two things which resulted with James in writing this letter. The two are [i] the 2 positive swine flu cases here at Laucala campus and [ii] the cure for influenza A is jet unsure.

As a student by profession at USP myself, I could articulate that James had burst out in the media with such comment as he was living in another planet, and not a student at USP by not taking heed of the useful information constantly given to us via our student email by USP regarding the virus.

With reference to the declaration of the Pandemic H1N1 2009, a USP Response Team was formed purposely to deal with that virus. This team includes key staff, the students association representatives and university medical doctors.

The team is responsible for issuing weekly emails University-wide to all staff and students on preventative measures; updates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Fiji's Ministry of Health, circulating Ministry of Health information packages (brochures, posters etc).

Under the direction of this Response Team in collaboration with the USP medical centre, the University has also identified an isolated area that will housed students and staff suspected of contracting the pandemic H1N1 2009 virus.

For travelling staff/student, the team was responsible for purchasing and issuing disposable masks. Also staff and students have been advised to visit the university's medical doctors for preventative measures.

As students, we are continually receiving emails regarding the above issues from the Response Team which was widely circulated to us via our emails. The subject of the email always remains the same, 'General Alert 1 (2, 3 or 4): Pandemic H1N1 2009'. Right now, it's the fourth email we have received. Three other emails of this kind had already distributed since this group was formed.

Below is the (fourth) General Alert 4: Pandemic H1N1 2009 message we received from the USP Response Team this week (Monday):

What to do if you are travelling via airports/ports?

* Seek medical advice from the University's Medical Team.
* The Medical Centre is issuing protective disposable masks for
staff and students.

General preventive measures:

* If you are ill with respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, etc.), visit the University's Medical Team for an assessment.
* Use disposable paper towels and tissues. Staff are advised to remove all cloth towels and replace with disposable paper towels.
* Wash your hands frequently with water and soap, and use alcohol-based hand disinfectant frequently. Then dry your hands immediately after washing. The flu is mostly transmitted through direct contact or through touching contaminated surfaces.
* Avoid touching your face. Don't shake hands, kiss, or hug people who may have flu-like symptoms.
* When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your hand, and wash or disinfect your hands afterwards.
* Avoid close contact with ill people.
* Avoid gatherings and crowded situations when possible.
Please observe the above rules: they will help to protect everybody.

The pandemic H1N1 virus is expected to infect many more people than the normal seasonal flu. Fortunately, this illness is usually mild. However, it can be dangerous or even deadly for people with certain conditions:

* The very old and the very young
* Chronic heart disease
* Chronic lung disease (e.g. asthma)
* Immunocompromised conditions, including the ones caused by medicines
such as high-dose corticosteroids, and HIV.
* Diabetes, obesity.

Staff and students are advised to take simple precautions due to the declaration of the Pandemic H1N1 2009. The Medical Centre will operate as normal during the Semester break.

By reading the email, its content is sound and clear that USP has appealed to us individually (staff/students) to take precautionary measures and to protect ourselves. It does not require them to come to us individually, stand by our side and say "wash your hands, put on your disposable mask, don't contact with sick people and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze". We are mature enough to control and discipline ourselves to apply the preventive and precautionary measures they had given us. Aren't we? As educated humans, we should at all times live as responsible beings, and not as irresponsible people.

In real life situation, when the plane ready to take off and landing, the air hostess will remind the passengers, "please fasten your seat belt". Equally likely, when a student was under performing, the lecturer/tutor will tell him/her, "You need to pull up your socks in order for you to pass this course". And so, in our case here, as responsible beings, the two confirmed cases should be an alarm bell for us to utilize all available and possible means given to us by the Response Team and the medical centre. We should be extra cautious and be accommodated with these four simple actions and precautionary measures to better protect from contracting the influenza A (H1N1);

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and avoid touching your face
2. Avoid contact with sick people
3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and
4. Seek immediate medical attention if you think you have influenza A (H1N1).

All in all, USP had implemented all actions of how best it can to address the outbreak of the flu in particular, to deal with the spread of the H1N1, how to handle those contracting the virus, and how to take preventive and precautionary measures against the flu.

It is obvious that the flu can be transmitted from person to person through touching, coughing, sneezing, and kissing. At this stage, we all know that the cure is unsure as jet. As our responsibility, we should take extra precautionary measures to avoid contracting the flu by adjusting accordingly to the prevailing situation. Or, are we depend entirely on someone to come and say, "Do this and do that?" That's childish. Isn't it?

If James still confuse, he should log on to this website to learn more about the flu rather than barking loudly in the media - General information can also be found on the following link.

Ma checkem student email to up to date with what is going on at USP and to know which direction the wind blows. Facing the wind and the current when in the middle of the ocean is dangerous. Thus, it is advisable before we set our sails while still on land to know the wind direction.

If James still doubt and likes to take extra precautionary measures, he should execute his right by wearing disposable mask where ever he intend to go; to Suva, around the campus, at the white tables, in the lecture/tutorial rooms, to the shop, in the labs, to the library, at the Point Cruz area, to the dining hall etc. Disposable masks are readily available at the medical centre and could also be obtained from the Response Team at the expense of the Solomon Islands government.

In extreme circumstances on the one hand, such issue should not addressed and directed to the government individually, but by our student body, the Solomon Islands Student Association (SISA) which was mandated to look after our student affairs here. On the other, as individuals, we have to play our part to remain healthy and safe and free from the flu.

From my personal standpoint as a Solomon Islander, I could say that theres no reason for our government to interfere by pressuring USP to try and control the further spread of the virus as being emphasized by James. Realistically speaking, USP is doing all it can of how best to deal with the virus since the declaration of the Pandemic H1N1 2009. It is only common understanding for us as students to take care of our own health. Aren't we mature enough? Samfala lo iumi kolsave olo nao. So, be considerate and act as responsible people accordingly.

In summary, to our government, health authorities, parents and guardians and wantoks back in the Solomons, I could rest assure you that we are all safe here. However, there is a tendency for a student to get the HIN1 virus only if he/she is inattentive, inconsiderate, negligent and heedless. As educated beings, we are consistently taking precautionary measures that were given to us by the USP Response Team and the medical centre. We are being abided, guided and live by the given measures in whatever we do and wherever we go.

Tagio tumes.