Pandemic Flu Information

How are Pandemic, Avian and Seasonal Flu different?

Pandemic Flu: An influenza pandemic is a rare but recurrent event. Three pandemics occurred in the previous century: “Spanish influenza” in 1918, “Asian influenza” in 1957, and “ Hong Kong influenza” in 1968. The 1918 pandemic killed an estimated 40–50 million people worldwide. That pandemic, which was exceptional, is considered one of the deadliest disease events in human history. Subsequent pandemics were much milder, with an estimated 2 million deaths in 1957 and 1 million deaths
Avian Flu: 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 infect humans. An influenza pandemic happens when a new subtype emerges that has not previously circulated in humans.
For this reason, avian 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.
Seasonal Flu: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.

This site provides current information about avian (bird) flu and pandemic flu, what preparations are being made at the University of Michigan - Dearborn (UMD), and links to other resources. Consult this site frequently for updates on avian and pandemic influenza, travel advisories, UMD policies and other information. 

Avian Flu

Avian flu is a virulent viral disease affecting poultry and other birds in Asia. It is also called "bird flu." It has caused a small number of cases of flu and even some deaths in people who have been in direct contact with infected birds. No cases of sustained human-to-human transmission have been established as of January 2006; however, scientists are concerned that the avian flu virus may mutate and become transmissible between humans. Avian flu virus has not been found in the U.S.

Every year, usually between December and May, 5% to 20% of the population in the U.S. become ill with the flu, or influenza. This is the normal course of seasonal flu with which we have become accustomed. It can cause serious illness and even death in the very young, the elderly and other individuals with impaired resistance and chronic illnesses. For this reason, everyone should get a flu shot unless your health care provider advises you otherwise. See below for more information on getting a flu shot.

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. Scientists worry that a mutant form of avian flu, under certain circumstances, could eventually cause a flu pandemic—although this scenario may never happen.

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

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory illness caused by airborne viruses that spread from person-to-person by droplets from coughing or sneezing. The period between becoming infected with the virus and becoming ill is usually 1 to 4 days. The contagious period is 3 to 5 days from the onset of symptoms. Symptoms of the flu, or influenza, are:

  • Fever (up to 104 degrees) and sweating/chills
  • Headache, muscle aches and/or stiffness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and nausea (in children)

A cold and flu are alike in many ways. A stuffy nose, sore throat and sneezing are usually signs of a cold. "Stomach flu" is not really the flu, as there are no respiratory symptoms. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea without the fever, cough, aching and respiratory symptoms is actually gastroenteritis, but some people call it "stomach flu." This form is caused by other microorganisms and has no relationship to true influenza.

How flu spreads?

Flu viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from close person-to-person contact, though sometimes people become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can live for as long as two hours on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables.

Healthy adults, infected with the virus, may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

How to prevent flu

While avian flu is not a risk to you at this time, there are several things you can do to keep from getting seasonal flu:

Get a flu shot

When you get vaccinated, it reduces your chances of getting seasonal flu. Since the flu season can last through May, even January is not too late to a flu shot; however, it takes 2 weeks after the shot to develop immunity.

Wash Your Hands

Hand washing is effective in preventing the flu, cold and other infectious diseases. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rubbing your hands together with soap and water is one of the most important ways to prevent infection. Disease-causing germs can enter your body when your unwashed hands touch your nose, eyes, mouth, and open wounds. Make hand washing a habit and encourage others in your workplace to do the same by downloading and posting UMD’s Hand washing Poster.

When soap and water are not available, use an antibacterial hand cleanser. Choose alcohol hand rubs with 60 –95% alcohol (usually listed as isopropyl, ethanol, or propanol). Glycerol or other skin conditioning agents are helpful additives. Read the directions and use the hand rub appropriately. Never wipe the hand rub off; allow your hands to air dry. When used properly, these sanitizers reduce the transmission of disease-causing germs.

Get Help if you are sick

If you develop symptoms of the flu, contact your health-care provider. There may be medications to relieve your symptoms. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.

The flu can be debilitating, causing the person who is ill to be bedridden for extended periods. Be alert to the well being of your friends, relatives and co-workers. Those with the flu may need assistance in getting medical attention and care.

If you are at special risk from complications of flu, you should consult your health care provider immediately upon recognizing flu symptoms. Those at risk include people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women or children.

UM Dearborn's Emergency Plan for Pandemic

The University of Michigan-Dearborn has taken several measures to prevent pandemic flu and prepare the campus in the event of an outbreak.

UMD has an all-hazard Emergency Plan that details responsibilities, chain of command and response actions.

UMD is providing flu prevention information to students, faculty and staff, including this web site and our hand washing campaign.

UMD is working with the Wayne County Health Department, City of Dearborn Health Department, University of Michigan Health Systems, and the State of Michigan to make sure our preparations and plans are consistent with theirs. In an outbreak or pandemic, those agencies have authority to direct public health actions, including quarantine.

UMD has formed a Pandemic Planning Team of campus experts and key response departments to conduct pre-event planning and prepare specific pandemic flu response procedures.

UMD is developing procedures and plans for supporting ill international students.