Office of Media Relations
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 (www.cdc.gov), 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: www.pandemicflu.gov/. 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:
During travel to an affected area:
After your return:
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 www.brown.edu/Administration/EHS/.