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University Council September Meeting Coverage
October 6, 2009, Volume 56, No. 06

At the September 30 University Council meeting, President Amy Gutmann announced the appointment of Dr. Reed Pyeritz, professor of medicine and genetics, as Council’s new moderator. Dr. Gutmann also announced the reappointment of Mark Frazier Lloyd, director of the University Archives and Records Center, as the parliamentarian for the 19th consecutive year.

Dr. Gutmann urged everyone to either use hand sanitizers, which were provided to all Council members, or wash their hands often to avoid spreading germs, especially since there is concern about the spread of the H1N1 flu.

Because Dr. Harvey Rubin, professor of infectious diseases and chair of the Council Steering was unable to attend the meeting, Dr. Sherri Adams, Steering’s past chair, itemized the six focus issues that had been selected last semester and mentioned the Council committee charges which were approved last month by the Tri-chairs, the president and provost. Dr. Adams also explained that the two Open Forums would be held at the December 9 and March 31 Council meetings, with procedural information published prior to each of those opportunities.

Provost Vincent Price then set the stage for the discussion of Penn’s response system to communicable diseases, particularly in the context of the possible spread of the H1N1 virus. Dr. Price said that the President had charged him and EVP Craig Carnaroli to prepare a crisis management plan and assemble an incident management team to work with the medical management team. Their report was released on September 4 and is available online; see www.upenn.edu/flu.  The intention of their efforts is to limit the potential spread of the virus.

Dr. Evelyn Weiner, director of Student Health, along with Dr. Patrick J. Brennan, chief medical officer and senior vice president, UPHS, and professor of infectious diseases, gave a presentation and answered questions.

Dr. Weiner noted that communicable diseases include SARS, meningitis, measles, tuberculosis, MRSA, as well as the pandemic flu. She said that Penn is involved in ongoing planning and preparedness efforts and surveillance for disease outbreaks. Student Health oversees the response to occurrences and implements control measures.

Dr. Brennan explained that a pandemic occurs when a new strain of microbe arrives in a community with little or no immunity to it, as was the case years ago with HIV. Since other strains of H1N1 previously existed, older people are not as susceptible as younger people are to this new strain. He said that in 1918, there were some 20 million deaths worldwide from the flu. This year, the first reported cases were in April and they spread rapidly in the US and Mexico, reaching global pandemic levels in June. While it is currently causing less illness than the 1918 pandemic, it has affected two thirds of the states in the US according to the CDC website. “The curve is on the upswing,” Dr. Brennan said, with more possible cases at Penn this week than last week.  

Dr. Brennan urged those who have influenza-like symptoms, such as fever and cough, to self-isolate and use social distancing to limit the spread. He added that individuals with conditions such as diabetes or those who are pregnant are at risk for more severe complications and would be among those who are higher on the priority list when the new vaccines are available. He said that the health system has mandated vaccines for their health care workers so that there wouldn’t be a shortage of providers to care for those who may need medical care.

Dr. Weiner added, “Wash your hands, it is low cost, low tech, almost free!” She said that they are working on a project writing a manual for university communities on how to manage infectious diseases.

The University has registered with the City to be a site for mass immunizations for faculty, staff and students, following the CDC priority groups. The health system will also be getting greater doses of vaccines this year for the greater community.

Almanac - October 6, 2009, Volume 56, No. 06