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Distributed December 21, 2005
Contact Mark Nickel

Brown Sends Avian Flu Advisory as Holiday Travel Season Begins

As students, faculty and staff prepare for holiday travel, senior administrators at Brown University sent an e-mail advisory to the campus community, offering health information and providing a list of information resources about avian flu. The text of that message follows here.

December 21, 2005

Dear Members of the Brown Community:

We are writing with important information for members of the Brown community regarding Avian Influenza and steps the University is actively taking to prepare for the possibility of a flu pandemic.

As you are likely aware from media coverage, federal and state efforts to develop plans to deal with a possible flu pandemic are ongoing. The University has also been working on its plans. We have organized a task force of administrators and faculty to monitor the flu situation and to ensure that appropriate plans are in place to protect the health of our campus community. That task force is in regular contact with the Rhode Island Department of Health, with faculty from Brown Medical School, and with leadership from Brown University Health Services. We will keep you advised of the work of the task force as appropriate via the Brown University Web site, e-mails and relevant postings.

Many members of our community will be traveling over the winter break. The remainder of this memorandum will provide you with basic information about the Avian Flu, Avian Influenza or Bird Flu and suggest resources you should consult if you are traveling to countries where Avian Flu has been detected.

1. What is the difference between Avian Flu, Seasonal Flu and Pandemic Flu?

Avian influenza is an infection caused by bird flu viruses. Avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses usually affect wild birds but now are infecting and causing serious and widespread disease among poultry, such as chickens, mostly in Southeast Asia and parts of Eastern Europe. Human infections with H5N1 viruses are rare, but have occurred during the last three years in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and China, with many cases resulting in death. Most cases of H5N1 infection in humans are thought to have occurred from direct contact with infected poultry in the affected countries in Asia. There have also been rare, isolated cases of spread from human to human.

Seasonal influenza (often called 'the flu') is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Seasonal flu occurs every year and can cause mild to severe illness in people. The best protection against seasonal flu is vaccination, and hand washing.

An influenza pandemic would be a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new “influenza A” virus appears or emerges in the human population, causes serious illness in people, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Currently, there is not a pandemic of influenza of any type. There is no pandemic of avian flu since widespread human to human spread of avian influenza has not occurred.

2. Where to find information.

On all questions related to an influenza threat, the University will be guided by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. We recommend that you visit the CDC’s Web site (, bookmark it in your Web browser, and refer to it whenever you have a question. The site is clear, authoritative, comprehensive and current. Information is also available on the official U.S. government Web site for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza: If you do not have convenient Internet access, you can get information through the Office of Student Life, Human Resources, Environmental Health and Safety or Health Services.

3. Travel suggestions.

Listed below are recommendations from the CDC Web site.

The CDC has not recommended that the general public avoid travel to any of the countries affected by H5N1. Persons visiting areas with reports of outbreaks of H5N1 among poultry or of human H5N1 cases can reduce their risk of infection by observing the following measures:

Before any international travel to an area affected by H5N1 avian influenza:

  • Visit CDC's Travelers‚ Health Web site at to educate yourself and others who may be traveling with you about any disease risks and CDC health recommendations for international travel in areas you plan to visit. For other information about avian influenza, see CDC's Avian Influenza Web site:
  • Be sure you are up to date with all your routine vaccinations, and see your doctor or health-care provider, ideally 4-6 weeks before travel, to get any additional vaccination medications or information you may need.
  • Assemble a travel health kit containing basic first aid and medical supplies. Be sure to include a thermometer and alcohol-based hand gel for hand hygiene. See the Travelers Health Kit page in ‘Health Information for International Travel’ for other suggested items.
  • Identify in-country health-care resources in advance of your trip.
  • Check your health insurance plan or get additional insurance that covers medical evacuation in case you become sick. Information about medical evacuation services is provided on the U.S. Department of State web page Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, at

During travel to an affected area:

  • Avoid all direct contact with poultry, including touching well-appearing, sick, or dead chickens and ducks. Avoid places such as poultry farms and bird markets where live poultry are raised or kept, and avoid handling surfaces contaminated with poultry feces or secretions.
  • As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important preventive practices is careful and frequent hand washing. Cleaning your hands often with soap and water removes potentially infectious material from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission. Waterless alcohol-based hand gels may be used when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Influenza viruses are destroyed by heat; therefore, as a precaution, all foods from poultry, including eggs and poultry blood, should be thoroughly cooked.
  • If you become sick with symptoms such as a fever accompanied by a cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing or if you develop any illness that requires prompt medical attention, a U.S. consular officer can assist you in locating medical services and informing your family or friends. Inform your health care provider of any possible exposures to avian influenza. See Seeking Health Care Abroad in 'Health Information for International Travel' for more information about what to do if you become ill while abroad. You should defer further travel until you are free of symptoms, unless your travel is health-related.

After your return:

  • Monitor your health for 10 days.
  • If you become ill with a fever plus a cough, sore throat or trouble breathing during this 10-day period, consult a health-care provider. Before you visit a health-care setting, tell the provider the following: 1) your symptoms, 2) where you traveled, and 3) if you have had direct contact with poultry or close contact with a severely ill person. This way, he or she can be aware that you have traveled to an area reporting avian influenza. Do not travel while ill, unless you are seeking medical care. Limiting contact with others as much as possible can help prevent the spread of an infectious illness.

4. Questions.

If you have any questions regarding appropriate precautions, please consult your physician or University Health Services at (401) 863-3953. Future updates, as appropriate, will be posted on the web at


Beppie Huidekoper
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

David Greene
Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services


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