Disease and Viral Outbreak Guidelines


This page contains information regarding disease or viral outbreaks, such as potential epidemics, pandemics, influenza cases worldwide, as well as general flu prevention and preparedness.

CURRENT NEWS: Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Personal Plan for COVID-19

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - What you can do to prepare, if you or a family members get ill, or if your community experiences spread of COVID-19. Individual and family home plan

Keep Learning

UC Santa Cruz is switching to remote instruction for the duration of Spring Quarter 2020.  As a result, a remote instruction website has been set up that covers topics such as accommodations, effective learning strategies, and advising.

Keep Learning Website

Coronavirus FAQs

What is Coronavirus?

From the Center for Disease Control: Common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • a general feeling of being unwell

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.

How is Coronavius Spread?

The CDC advises that the Human coronaviruses is most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

  • the air by coughing and sneezing
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
  • rarely, fecal contamination

How Can I Protect Myself from Coronavirus?

The CDC advises: There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick

For information about hand washing, see CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives!

How to Can I Protect Others?

If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by doing the following

  • stay home while you are sick
  • avoid close contact with others
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect objects and surfaces

What is the Treatment for Coronavirus?

There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. However, you can do some things to relieve your symptoms

  • take pain and fever medications (Caution: do not give Aspirin to children)
  • use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough

If you are mildly sick, you should

  • drink plenty of liquids
  • stay home and rest

If you are concerned about your symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider.

Should I Wear a Mask?

  • Students: If you feel ill, contact the Student Health Center. Surgical masks will be provided to persons with symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and can be worn to help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Employees: If you feel ill, please visit your health care provider.   
  • If you are not experiencing symptoms of the flu, at this time, it is not recommended that you wear a mask. However, you should follow the general flu safety precautions noted below.

Where Can I Obtain a Mask?

  • Students: If you feel ill, contact the Student Health Center.  Surgical masks will be provided to persons with symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and can be worn to help prevent the spread of disease
  • Employees: Your health care provider may recommend or supply a mask.

Where Can I Stay Informed?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus.  This virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since spread to other international locations.  What you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Follow the General Safety Precautions noted below.
  2. International travelers should review travel and health advisories:
  3. Visit CDC, Travel Health to view regional warnings. 
  4. Visit the Centers for Disease Control to view current advisories.

International Travel Safety Resources

  1. Register for the Department of State Safety and Security Messaging App.
  2. Department of State, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

General Flu Safety Precautions (from the California Department of Public Health)

Follow these flu prevention tips:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with flu, it is recommended that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

What can travelers do to protect themselves and others?

CDC recommends avoiding nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan. If you must travel:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider.

If you traveled to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan, in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. 
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Seasonal Influenza

Seasonal influenza typically results from one or more subtypes of the Influenza A virus (H1N1, H1N2 or H3N2) or from the Influenza B virus. Vaccination and previous exposure to these viruses results in varying levels of immunity and tends to limit the most serious effects of seasonal influenza to the elderly, the very young and those with pre-existing health conditions.

WHO Pandemic Threat Level

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as follows: "A disease epidemic occurs when there are more cases of that disease than normal. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic of a disease." Typically, the term pandemic is used in reference to an influenza pandemic due to the threat of such pandemics, but pandemics can occur in other disease types as well.

WHO classifies the pandemic influenza threat into six phases, as follows:

  • Phase 1 - animal influenza cases which do not present a threat to humans
  • Phase 2 - animal influenza cases which may present a threat to humans
  • Phase 3 - small clusters of animal transmission to humans
  • Phase 4 - verified cases of human to human transmission
  • Phase 5 - human to human transmission in 2 or more countries in one region (pandemic imminent)
  • Phase 6 - pandemic - community-level outbreaks in more than one region

2009 Novel H1N1 Pandemic

In May 2009, a novel strain of the H1N1 subtype, often referred to as "swine flu", appeared. Initially, cases were limited to animal-to-human transmission, but quickly changed to widespread human-to-human transmission and was classified as a pandemic by the WHO in June 2009. This strain appears to be more easily spread than other H1N1 strains and has resulted in numerous human cases outside of the traditional flu seasons in all parts of the world. The novel H1N1 strain also appears to affect individuals under the age of 25 more severely than seasonal influenza does, and is also of particular concern to pregnant women and those with pre-existing health conditions.

UC Santa Cruz saw over 100 cases of H1N1 flu on campus in 2009 and 2010.

H5N1 is another subtype of the Influenza A virus which primarily infects birds, but which can also spread to humans. This virus is commonly referred to as "avian influenza" or "bird flu".