Emergency Guidelines for the Campus Community

Pandemic Influenza

The purpose of this website is to provide links to the most up-to-date information about pandemic flu and avian (bird) flu and to describe the University's preparedness efforts.

Differences between seasonal, avian and pandemic flu

The US Centers for Disease Control differentiates among the types of flu:

Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

Avian (or bird) flu is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. The H5N1 variant is deadly to domestic fowl and can be transmitted from birds to humans. There is no human immunity and no vaccine is available.

Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu.

Avian flu

Several countries across Asia and a few in Europe have reported cases of avian influenza or “bird flu” in both domestic and wild bird populations. There have been a number of cases of bird-to-human transmission of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, resulting in several deaths.

Most, if not all, of the known human cases were the result of direct contact with poultry, with little or no evidence of human-to-human transmission. However, health experts are concerned about the potential that the virus may mutate into a strain that could be transmitted from person to person, potentially causing a dangerous pandemic.

Map of Avian Flu Worldwide

KEY: No cases No H5N1 Avian Flu wild bird cases Wild birds only domestic poultry Domestic poultry only human cases Human cases

Map of Avian Flu worldwideFrom International SOS

Concerns about the possibility of an avian influenza pandemic have prompted national and international efforts to track the disease closely and to institute pandemic preparedness programs.

There is disagreement among experts regarding the likelihood of an avian flu pandemic. (1) Some health officials believe that the spread of avian flu to domestic bird populations in the U.S. will have much less impact than less developed countries, since American poultry farmers tend to isolate their birds, reducing the potential for contact with wild birds. (2)

There is currently no vaccine available for avian flu. Early trials of a vaccine has had mixed results.(3)

Pandemic Flu

Every year, usually between December and May, between 5% and 20% of the population in the U.S. become ill with seasonal flu. It can cause serious illness and even death in the very young, the elderly and other individuals with impaired resistance and chronic illnesses.

See Seasonal Flu for more information about seasonal flu, including symptoms, how it spreads, prevention, and when to seek medical attention.

In 1918, 1957 and 1968 the flu season in the U.S. was especially severe, and resulted in a much higher number of illnesses and deaths. This more dangerous form is called pandemic flu. Public health experts believe that a flu pandemic is likely to occur again in the future.

It is prudent to learn about flu prevention, get a flu shot, wash your hands often, and follow travel and public health advisories.


Princeton University Emergency Plans for Pandemic Flu

The Princeton University Emergency Preparedness Task Force (EPTF) has appointed a subcommittee to review and make recommendations for the University's plans for pandemic illnesses, including flu.

  • The EPTF has an Emergency Response Plan to cover most emergencies, including pandemics.
  • University Health Services provides flu prevention information to the University community, including the handwashing and Cover Your Cough campaign.
  • University Health Services has an illness surveillance program to track common illnesses and health trends in students.
  • The EPTF works with the State, Mercer County and Princeton Health Departments to ensure our preparedness plans are at a minimum in line with state and local planning efforts.
  • Another EPTF subcommittee has been working with state, county and local health officials to devise plans for procuring and administering vaccines or medications to the Princeton community in the event of a pandemic or terrorist act.


International travel

As of the date of this publication, there are no specific travel restrictions for concerns about avian flu. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Department of State issue travel warnings and alerts for public safety and health issues. None of these agencies recommend any travel restrictions to affected countries at this time.

However, CDC currently advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of H5N1 influenza avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.

Resources for international travelers:


For more information about seasonal, avian or pandemic flu

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Influenza (Flu)

Pandemic Flu and Planning Resources


(1) Wade, Nicholas, “Studies Suggest Avian Flu Pandemic Isn’t Imminent”, New York Times, March 23, 2006.
(2) CIDRAP News, “Top official predicts reduced bird flu impact in US”, CIDRAP website, April 12, 2006.
(3) Grady, Denise, “Doubt Cast on Stockpile of Vaccine for Bird Flu”, New York Times, March 30, 2006.


Prepared by University Health Services and Environmental Health and Safety.

©2006 The Trustees of Princeton University. Last modified 03-Jul-2007 9:47 by Robin M. Izzo