The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
As defined by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services a “pandemic flu is a virulent flu that causes a global outbreak of serious illness. Because there is little immunity, the disease can be spread easily from person to person.” In essence, a pandemic is “a local crisis worldwide”.
According the World Health Organization, Avian influenza refers to “a large group of different influenza viruses that primarily affect birds. On rare occasions, these bird viruses can infect other species, including pigs and humans. The vast majority of avian influenza viruses do not affect humans. An influenza pandemic happens when a new virus subtype emerges that has not previously circulated in humans”.
“For this reason, Avian (Flu) H5N1 is a strain with pandemic potential, since it might ultimately adapt into a strain that is contagious among humans. Once this adaptation occurs, it will no longer be a bird virus – it will be a human influenza virus. Influenza pandemics are caused by new influenza viruses that have adapted to humans.” (The World Health Organization)
Communities need to prepare for a pandemic because if a human-to-human transmission is identified, it has the potential to spread very quickly and will place extraordinary and sustained demands on public health and healthcare systems. An outbreak could significantly interrupt normal university functions for a period of two to four weeks or up to several months, and may require closure of on-campus housing and university operations. The university community is taking steps now to prepare for the potential of such pandemic in the best interest of minimizing the risk of exposure among faculty, staff and students.
Avoid being around others who are at risk for exposure. As a pandemic emerges, do not kiss, hug, shake hands or come in close contact with others, particularly in large gatherings. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially if you suspect that you may have been exposed. Check your temperature regularly for several days after you suspect possible exposure and should your temperature rise, see a physician immediately.