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    September 2019

    Preparing for Flu and Other Pandemics

    With flu season on the way, it’s time to review your institution’s pandemic response procedures. Because students can be a particularly vulnerable population, schools, colleges, and universities should prepare a flexible pandemic plan that encompasses all types of diseases.

    Consider the following aspects when revising your institution's pandemic plan. For detailed recommendations, refer to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) guidance for schools and child care providers.


    An annual vaccination, recommended for everyone 6 months old and older, is the best way to protect against the flu. Schools should consider offering flu vaccinations to students and staff, perhaps in partnership with local public health departments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information on school-located vaccination for schools and child care providers.


    Incorporate a flexible sick leave policy in your plan. Advise staff and students to stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine. For institutions with housing, decide whether to provide separate facilities for infected students and staff and establish policies for transporting ill individuals. Provide sufficient and accessible infection-prevention supplies, such as soap, alcohol-based hand hygiene products, tissues, and trash receptacles.

    Pandemic response team

    Ensure that your team includes appropriate personnel from health services, housing, security, communications, food services, academic affairs, and legal counsel. Team members should have defined roles and responsibilities for preparedness, response, and recovery planning. Identify back-up personnel if team members become infected or are otherwise unable to serve.

    School and program closures

    The severity of illness and infection rates of a school or campus community will affect whether closing is advisable. Your institution's plan should include responses to different outbreak scenarios and factor in the level of public concern, the impact of school absenteeism, and staffing shortages. Other issues to consider include:

    • Cancellation of public events
    • Public transportation closures
    • Contingency plans for students who depend on student housing and food services (including international students)
    • Maintenance of research laboratories, particularly those using animals
    • Stockpiling of nonperishable food and equipment

    Consult the Pandemic Influenza Plan: 2017 Update from HHS for more information on preparedness and response.


    With your institution's public affairs or communications department, keep members of the school or campus community informed of the health threat, the institution's response, and their responsibilities. If your institution has a crisis communications team, gather team members to develop a plan for keeping relevant audiences informed.

    Apprise students and employees about flu symptoms, preventive measures, potential for contagion, and confirmed cases within the school community as well as changes to the campus operating status. Use and test many methods of communication, such as the institution's website, alert notification systems, telephone hotlines, text messages, bulk email systems, and local radio or TV stations.

    Continuity of operations

    Your plan should include steps to ensure the continuity of essential operations, including payroll, security, maintenance, and housekeeping and food service for student housing. Develop and disseminate alternative procedures to ensure continuity of the academic program through distance instruction, emailed lessons and assignments, or other means.

    Careful planning and preparation will help institutions protect their communities during this flu season and any future pandemics.

    Public Health Resources

    World Health Organization

    Education Resources

    University of Houston Pandemic Influenza Plan
    Wittenberg University Pandemic Flu Response Plan
    Ithaca College Epidemic Response Plan


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