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UCF Community Encouraged to Participate in Avian Flu Vaccination Exercise

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By Chad Binette

(Updated Aug. 26, 2002)

About 375 members of the UCF community helped the university prepare for a potential avian flu outbreak by volunteering as patients in a vaccination exercise Monday.

Participants weren't given any shots. The "vaccines" were cups of M&Ms, and participants also registered for prizes, including an MP3 player donated by the UCF Computer Store, Barnes & Noble gift certificates provided by the UCF Bookstore and a gift basket from the UCF Health Services Pharmacy.

Each volunteer filled out one-page health screening forms before sitting down with a UCF health professional or nursing faculty member for a follow-up screening and then the delivery of the "vaccine."

The exercise helped the university prepare for the possibility of having to vaccinate about 50,000 students, faculty members and staff during over just two days. UCF also can use the drill to help improve the process that is used annually to distribute regular flu vaccines.

Dr. Michael Deichen, associate director of clinical services, said the exercise will help Health Services determine how many people can be vaccinated per hour and improve the plan that is being developed to deliver the vaccines at four sites on campus.

"We hope we will never have to give the actual vaccinations, but we want to be well-prepared just in case," Deichen said.

The avian flu has yet to reach theUnited States, and health officials stress that there is no reason to panic even if it does. The disease is mainly carried by birds, and humans have become infected mainly through close contact with birds. To date, the virus has not been capable of spreading easily from person to person, and that type of transmission would be necessary for a pandemic to occur.

Coordinated by Health Services with help from theSchoolofNursingand other campus departments, the vaccination exercise was part of a broad university effort to prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak. UCF employees are working together to determine how to best care for ill students, continue essential services and provide classes online during a pandemic.

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