Marshall officials continuing infectious disease preparedness efforts


Infectious diseases have been in the news lately and although the risk of a case of the Ebola virus in the Marshall University campus community is remote, university leaders and health officials have been working to make sure the university is prepared to deal with that possibility, as well as the potential for outbreaks of influenza and Enterovirus D68.

Tracy Smith, director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, says representatives of his office, the Student Health Education Programs, Student Health Services, Department of Housing and Residence Life, and the INTO  program for international students have been coordinating infectious disease preparedness efforts for weeks, including reviewing the university’s Communicable Diseases Response plan and discussing procedures and immunization requirements for students.

Director of Student Health Education Programs Amy Saunders said the university follows guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and coordinates with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department regarding plans to address potential outbreaks of all infectious diseases. She added, “We have a great partnership with our local health department and work closely with them on the prevention of infectious diseases.  We have a well-developed emergency response plan, and we are currently reviewing our policies and procedures so we can make sure that we are doing everything we can to be prepared.”

The CDC advises the following measures to help prevent the spread of germs:

  • Get a flu vaccination.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice.

Specifically related to the Ebola virus, the  planning group is taking the following measures:

  • Monitoring Ebola advisories from the CDC;
  • Coordinating with other campus groups and the Office of the President;
  • Advising travelers traveling to and from areas of ongoing transmission;
  • Developing plans to monitor and evaluate returning travelers who may be at risk;
  • Assessing and reinforcing infection control measures and equipment; and
  • Proactively planning with local and state public health officials and campus partners, who know how to manage a potential exposure or a suspected case of Ebola.

Smith said, “The safety of the Marshall University community is our top priority. We are monitoring the Ebola situation very closely and are taking precautionary measures as recommended by federal, state and local public health officials.

Medical personnel from  Health and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine also have been coordinating with university and community colleagues to determine risk and ensure the safety of the community.

They recommend that anyone who has traveled outside of the U.S. within the last 21 days and has a fever of more than 100.4°F (38°C) or has headache, weakness, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or unexplained bleeding seek medical care immediately  at the nearest hospital emergency department.

Dr. Joseph Werthammer, chief medical officer at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, said, “Marshall Health and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine are actively engaged in discussions regarding our protocols in the highly unlikely event a person with Ebola would present at one of our clinics or on our campus. We, like dozens of academic health centers and hospitals around the U.S., are following CDC guidelines and have in place procedures that protect our patients, students and staff.”

To learn more about infectious diseases, review the information on the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov.

Students with questions about infectious diseases should contact Student Health Education Programs at ext.6-4800 or shep@marshall.edu or visit www.marshall.edu/shep.

The  emergency management plan is available at http://www.marshall.edu/emergency/.