Emergency Guidelines for the Campus Community
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.
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.
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 H5N1 Avian Flu Wild birds only Domestic poultry only Human cases
From 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)
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.
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.
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:
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
Pandemic Flu and Planning Resources
Nicholas, “Studies Suggest Avian Flu Pandemic Isn’t Imminent”,
New York Times, March 23, 2006.