UC Berkeley Pandemic Flu Preparedness

Please see H1N1 Flu Resource Page for the latest developments on this issue.

Chancellor Birgeneau has established a UC Berkeley Pandemic Flu Preparedness Task Force, with members representing academic and administrative areas of the campus, and University Health Services taking the leadership role. We are fortunate to have public health and infectious disease expertise on campus to assist in this important initiative.

This page outlines Berkeley's preparations to date, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), and offers links to additional information, including a comprehensive document on avian flu. If the status of a potential flu pandemic should change, UC Berkeley will communicate the University's plans to you through many venues, including this webpage.


UC Berkeley Preparedness Activities

Preparedness Activities To-Date

  • A discussion-based table top exercise was held on March 28, 2007 to engage and prepare campus executives, management and the persons responsible for the operational emergency response infrastructure for the unique problems posed by the threat of pandemic influenza.
  • Developed first drafts of the Department Operations Centers (DOC) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) influenza pandemic plan annexes.
  • DOC and EOC influenza pandemic planning process began in November, 2006 with an Orientation and the first of six Planning Workshops.
  • The Pandemic Flu Preparedness Task Force met for the first time on October 3, 2006, to launch the campus-wide pandemic flu planning process.
  • Approval of an application for a national intervention trial with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on non-pharmacological strategies for reducing influenza (flu) transmission.
  • In August 2005, the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness conducted a pandemic preparedness simulation.
  • University Health Services has conducted several successful rapid/mass vaccination ("flu shot") clinics.

Ongoing Preparedness Activities

  • Campus health staff and infectious disease experts are working closely with local, state, and national health authorities to monitor the world-wide avian flu situation and potential for a flu pandemic.
  • The Task Force is collaborating with local, state, and national health officials to establish best practices before and during a pandemic.
  • University Health Services is educating faculty, staff, and students with up-to-date printed and web-based materials (such as those available through this webpage).
  • The Task Force is working with individual campus departments to address specific planning considerations.

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Pandemic Flu FAQ's

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What is Pandemic Flu?

Pandemic flu is a world-wide outbreak of flu in humans that occurs when a new form of flu virus infects humans and is easily spread from person-to-person. Because a pandemic flu virus is unique people have no immunity (or resistance) to it.

Three prior flu pandemics occurred in the 20th century, in 1918 ("Spanish Flu"), 1957 ("Asian Flu"), and 1968 ("Hong Kong Flu").

Currently, there is no pandemic flu involving humans occurring anywhere in the world but experts predict one will occur at some point in the future and we want to be prepared.

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Why is there concern about a potential flu pandemic?

There is a current outbreak of a type of avian flu referred to as H5N1 that has been confirmed among poultry and other birds. There have been a small number of humans with H5N1 (cases) in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most of these cases resulted from direct or close contact with infected poultry. Spread of avian flu from person-to-person has been very limited.

At this time, the concern is that should the avian flu virus (H5N1) change in such a way that it will be able to spread easily from person-to-person, a pandemic could develop.

Currently, the avian flu H5N1 virus does not spread easily from person-to-person and there is no pandemic flu any where in the world.

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If there is a flu pandemic, how will it affect me?

In the event of a pandemic, it is anticipated that many people will need to stay home from work and school because they are sick or need to care for sick family members.

In an extreme situation, authorities may try "social distancing" and require that large events or gatherings of people (classes, sporting events, movie theaters, etc.) be cancelled or closed to prevent the spread of disease.

If a severe flu pandemic occurs, all business would likely be affected. Schools and business may decide to close temporarily. Public transportation might be limited.

If many people become sick at the same time, health-care facilities may become overwhelmed.

Individuals, families, business and schools must all prepare for the potential of a flu pandemic.

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How will the University communicate with the campus community?

In the event of a flu pandemic, the University will use many venues to communicate with the campus community, including this webpage.

Other communication strategies are being developed and will be used (signage, hotlines, etc.) as needed.

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How will I know what to do?

If you have flu symptoms, stay home. You should not go to school or work.

You will be able to find information about a flu pandemic, both general and specific to UC Berkeley, here on this webpage.

Additionally, if there is a flu pandemic, this site will be updated with contact information specifically for the emergency.

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How can I prepare for a potential flu pandemic?

Educate yourself. Review the additional online resources and check back to this webpage for any changes at UC Berkeley.

Plan ahead. Planning and preparation can reduce the impact of any emergency or disaster. The following websites provide information and resources for emergency preparedness:

UC Berkeley Office of Emergency Preparedness
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter

Discuss the potential of a flu pandemic with your family and friends so that you can stay in touch with each other (in case phone lines get overwhelmed).

Make a plan so that dependents and pets can be looked after for several weeks if their caregiver becomes ill.

Figure out ways to access the Internet and UC Berkeley email remotely. Those without computer access should explore alternative ways to stay informed. UC Berkeley will distribute information through a variety of methods to facilitate communications.

If you take essential medications regularly, consider talking to your health-care provider about the possibility of keeping extra supplies or prescription mediations to use in the event of a flu pandemic.

Keep enough essential goods on hand in case supplies are limited.

  • Keep two weeks of food that does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Keep two weeks of water (14 gallons per person) in sealed containers that cannot break.
  • Keep some liquids to help with dehydration.
  • Keep two weeks worth of ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand to help with fever and pain.
  • Keep a supply of masks and plastic gloves to prevent spreading the flu.
  • Keep disinfectants and chlorine bleach on hand.
  • Get a cell phone and charger.

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Will a mask protect me from pandemic flu?

At this time, it is not known with certainty that wearing a mask will prevent someone from getting the flu.

In a flu pandemic, people who are sick should wear masks to help protect others from the flu. People who are sick should also use masks if they absolutely must leave their house, to help protect others.

Hospital and health care workers have a lot of exposure to people who are very sick. They should use a special type of mask called an N-95 respirator.

N-95 respirators only protect against the flu if they are carefully fitted and properly used.

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What else might be done to protect people in a flu pandemic?

Government officials could ask you to try "social distancing" to slow the spread of the flu pandemic. You could be asked to stay home from work or school, and to stay away from crowded places or groups.

"Stay at home" days are meant to limit contact between people. If schools or businesses are closed, STAY HOME and keep your children at home.

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Will the government quarantine people in a flu pandemic?

Quarantine and isolation are public health actions that are used to stop or slow the spread of a contagious disease (one that spreads easily from person-to-person) like pandemic flu. Quarantine and isolation both keep people away from others, in homes, hospitals, or other health care facilities.

Quarantine is for people who have been exposed to a contagious disease, but are not sick. Sometimes people can be contagious (able to give someone else an illness) even before they feel sick. Quarantine separates the exposed person from other people for the amount of time that it would take to get sick after an exposure.

Isolation is for people who are already sick and could spread the disease.

Quarantine and isolation are usually voluntary. Most people want to protect others from getting sick. But the government does have the authority to make someone stay in isolation and quarantine.

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Is there a vaccine ("flu shot") for pandemic flu?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a human vaccine against the H5N1 influenza virus. The agency said that, should H5N1 develop the ability to spread readily from person to person: "The vaccine may provide early limited protection in the months before a vaccine tailored to the pandemic strain of the virus could be developed and produced." The vaccine will be kept in a federal stockpile and available only through public health officials; it is approved for those 18 to 64 who are at invreased risk for H5N1 exposure. Work is already in process on the next generation of influenza vaccines.

Individuals are encouraged to get immunized against seasonal influenza. Clinics are held in the fall. For more information, see Flu Shot Update.

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What medications are available for a flu pandemic?

There is no cure for the flu. Because flus are caused by viruses, antibiotic treatment (which works against bacteria) is ineffective.

There are currently four medications (called "antivirals") for flus: symmetrel, flumadine, tamiflu, and relenza. Antivirals may be effective for reducing the severity and duration of the flu. They can also be used to try and prevent the flu if someone has come in contact with flu viruses.

However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against using symmetrel and flumadine for flus because some flu viruses have become resistant to these medications.

There is concern about the potential for flu viruses to become resistant to additional antiviral medications. The use of antivirals when they are not needed increases the chance that flu viruses will become resistant. Antivirals should not be taken without instructions from a doctor or other healthcare provider.

The most current information about antivirals and drug resistance is available on the CDC's website.

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Will there be enough antiviral medications in the event of a flu pandemic?

In a flu pandemic, it is unlikely that there will be enough antiviral medications for everyone to prevent people from getting the flu or to treat everyone who does get the flu.

Federal, state, and local agencies are developing plans for obtaining, distributing, and using antiviral medications in case of pandemic flu. These plans are designed to keep essential services functioning (such as water, health, police, fire, and sanitation) and make sure the fewest number of people die from pandemic flu.

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Should I stockpile antiviral medications in preparation for a potential flu pandemic?

No, people should not stockpile (collect) antiviral medications.

The use of antivirals when they are not needed increases the chance that flu viruses will become resistant. Antivirals should not be taken without instructions from a doctor or other healthcare provider.

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Additional Online Resources

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Other UC Berkeley Resources

  • Office of Emergency Preparedness
    Provides information on campus disaster training and simulations, preparing for emergencies, and emergency resources.
  • UCB Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness
    Provides information on infectious disease courses available at UC Berkeley and the Center's Pandemic Influenza Project.

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Resources for Individuals and Families

  • U.S. Department of Education - Webcast
    Keeping our Children Safe and Secure: Pandemic Flu and Emergency Preparedness webcast aired on October 17, 2006. Explores how families can prepare now for the threat of a flu pandemic. Includes general pandemic flu information and topics for parents to consider related to pandemic preparedness.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
    The official U.S. Government site, maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the information for individuals and families on planning for avian flu and the potential for a flu pandemic. Includes guides for planning, checklists, and information sheets.
  • Prepare.org
    A website hosted by the American Red Cross to help you and your family prepare for natural and human-caused disasters.

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World and National Resources

  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
    The official U.S. Government site, maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the information on planning for avian flu and the potential for a flu pandemic. Includes guides for planning, checklists, and information sheets.
http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/community/community_mitigation.pdf (pdf) Guidelines developed by CDC and HHS for community stategies to potentially help delay the spread of pandemic flu (issued February 2007).

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State and Local Resources

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Webcast
    Pandemic Flu Preparedness: What Every Community Should Know webcast aired on September 29, 2006. Examines California's Santa Clara County pandemic preparedness efforts to increase awareness of the local, state, and federal response to pandemic influenza and steps communities should take to prepare. Presented by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Contact Information

For additional information about UC Berkeley's Pandemic Flu Preparedness, contact University Health Services at (510) 642-1814 or by email:

Pam Cameron, RNNP, Assistant Director of Clinical Services

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to diagnose, treat or provide a second opinion on any health problem or disease. It is meant to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between an individual and his/her clinician.

Last revised: April, 2007

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