College ready for pandemic

Students taking exam repeats in late August were offered masks should they have fears of contracting swine flu in the packed exam halls. This is just one example of the precautions the College Pandemic Planning Group have taken in a bid to limit the impact the influenza virus may have on the College community.

The group, which was formerly the Asian Flu Group, was reactivated once the Swine influenza virus spread to Ireland. The ten-man ad-hoc committee have so far held two briefing sessions in the College. Most recently, a meeting was held in the Davis Theatre on September 8th. Chairing the meeting was Interim Chief Operating Officer Tony McMahon, Director of the College Health Service, Dr. David McGrath and Patricia Callaghan, the Academic Secretary. Mr. McMahon said that it would hard to estimate to what level the College will be affected by the pandemic, but the group had laid out plans to deal with staff and student absences. The group has completed the installation of hand-hygiene dispensers positioned in key locations on campus. Posters have been put up throughout the Campus and the updates from the Group can be followed on their Twitter page.

Dr. David McGrath said that symptoms included coughing, joint pain, vomitting, diarrohea, sore throat and fever. While all of these symptoms are similar to a regular flu, Dr. McGrath has said that the symptoms in the case of swine flu come on much quicker and will take a minimum of three to four days to fully recover. Dr. McGrath is asking students to avoid college if they feel they have flu-like symptoms, and to telephone their GP who will diagnose them over the phone.  

While the drug Tamiflu was originally prescribed to all those showing the symptoms, now only those in the “at-risk” groups and those working with “at-risk” patients, will be given the flu-combatting drug. Dr. McGrath defined those who are “at-risk” as pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and immune-comprised patients. Addressing the recent deaths, Dr. McGrath said that all of these had been as a result of pre-consisting illnesses.

Dr. McGrath also said that the College would be looking at removing pregnant women from frontline work that would involve dealing directly with the public. Dr. McGrath said that those in the 15-19 and 20-24 age brackets are most at risk.

The Swine Flu Response Committee is also dealing with the response and is the only response body with a student representative. Welfare Officer Cormac Cashman, who sits on this committee has said he is “very happy” with the College’s response to the pandemic.

It has emerged that four members of the University College Cork Student’s Union developed swine flu at a Union of Students in Ireland conference in Waterford. Trinity’s SU President Conan O’Broin has been quick to guarantee students that the current sabbatical team have shown no evidence of flu and are “fully fit and ready for work”.

A helpline has been set up to provide information to students but so far there has been very little traffic. The helpline is currently open from 9am-1pm and from 2pm-5pm, however Mr. McMahon has said that the group will look into increasing these hours should the need arise.

Students with concerns can contact the College helpline on (01) 896 4000.