School prepares for avian flu

Harvard-Westlake’s administrative team is talking about measures to prepare for the scenario of an avian flu pandemic, which government officials feel is no longer just possible but to be expected. The Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have warned states to begin planning for an avian flu pandemic by taking precautions not only to avoid the risk of receiving and spreading infection, but also to learn how to care for family members with avian flu symptoms.

“Pandemic influenza is not necessarily imminent, but we believe it’s inevitable,” Director of CDC Julie Gerberding said in an article this week in U.S. News & World Report.

Measures included stocking up on food, N95 masks and other medical supplies, and also dismissing schools, closing childcare programs and arranging for employees to work from home.
Though the school may not be 100 percent prepared if the pandemic were to strike tomorrow, the administrative team, has heavily discussed the topic and how they would act were a pandemic to take place, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said.

In the worst case scenario, where a pandemic were to strike the school and force it to close for an extended amount of time depending on the severity and nature of the situation, Salamandra hopes that the school’s already existing method of online materials and e-mail system would provide an efficient system to build off of.

“We definitely have a structure where we could communicate,” Salamandra said. “Especially with the new student e-mails, it would be much easier now for students, faculty and administration to contact one another.”

In terms of a major pandemic, the school’s main role would be to make sure to avoid the scenario of many students getting infected and then in turn spreading any sort of illness.

This action would include postponing or cancelling any large performing arts or sporting events, something that Salamandra believes the California Interscholastic Federation “would dictate quickly.”
“For a school in particular, a safe environment is crucial,” Salamandra said.