Michael Leavitt, then Health and Human Services Secretary, stated on March 30, 2006, “Pandemics happen. Anything we say in advance of a pandemic happening is alarmist; anything we say afterwards is inadequate.” We cannot ignore the warnings from WHO and CDC; we must be prudent and prepare for a pandemic.

It is expected that a pandemic will have global impact with an unpredictable timeline comprising multiple events or waves and spreading quickly from one community to another. Major disruptions are likely for health care, transportation, infrastructure, education, suppliers, and other public services. Ball State University’s crisis responses previously developed were helpful guides in preparing this plan. But unlike most “traditional” natural or man-made disasters, pandemics have a great impact on operational issues and personnel.

This Plan was developed in anticipation of a pandemic. While not all events can be predicted, the planning team utilized the most up-to-date expert information that was available. The focus of Ball State University’s plan is to respond to a pandemic in a thoughtful and compassionate way to help us return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

WHO and CDC experts have widely discussed the unpredictability of a pandemic. This plan, like other crisis plans, should be viewed as a guide that may require modification during the pandemic to appropriately respond to the events. We expect that there will be modifications and improvements to the plan as we move forward. Marketing and Communications staff developed a website that provides the latest information regarding a pandemic. The website address is


A pandemic virus occurs when an antigenic shift takes place in the virus. These changes can either reduce the virus’ pathogenic form or increase its pathogenic form increasing its virulence. A virus will mutate in order to adapt; mutating is a virus defense mechanism. The following three conditions must be met for a pandemic to occur:

  1. a new influenza virus subtype emerges;
  2. the virus infects humans;
  3. the virus gains efficient and sustainable transmission from human to human.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the following comparison between seasonal flu and pandemic flu. Seasonal flu follows predictable patterns and occurs usually in the winter months. Because of previous exposure, people usually have some immunity to seasonal flu. People will have no previous exposure to a pandemic flu; healthy people will be as likely at risk for serious complications. Vaccines have been developed for known flu strains and in the U.S. have been available during the annual flu season. It is not likely that a vaccine will be available in the early stages of a pandemic. However, vaccines are currently under development and aggressive research is taking place to create methods to deliver large quantities of vaccine more quickly.

The following table provided by the Indiana State Department of Health illustrates the differences between pandemic influenza and typical seasonal influenza.




Comes from a novel virus to which no one, or few people, have any immunity


Circulating viruses slightly mutate year to year

Attack rate may be as high as 30% of population


Patients are sicker for a longer period time

Illness usually lasts 1 to 2 weeks

Limited vaccine availability

Vaccine available prior to illness in population

May be resistant to some antivirals

Several antiviral medications are available

Excess mortality (3 to 7 times normal rate

Normal flu mortality – 36,000/year in U.S.

Patients may present with primary viral pneumonia

Pneumonia is usually a later complication

May be severe in all ages

Severe in the very old and the very young

Can occur at any time of the year

Seasonal – occurs in the winter

May have more than one wave of illness

Usually just one wave of illness

Spreads rapidly throughout the world


To monitor and detect influenza activity, the CDC and WHO employ surveillance programs around the world. Combined, there are 113 national centers in 84 countries analyzing and tracking changes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) developed Six Phases for Influenza Planning as outlined below. The U.S. Federal Government response stages are identified on the right side of the following grid.

 WHO Phases

 Federal Government Response Stages






No new virus subtypes detected in humans. A virus subtype that has caused human infection may be present in animals. If present in animals, the risk of human disease is considered to be low.





New domestic animal outbreak in at risk country



No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans. However, a circulating animal virus subtype poses a substantial risk of human disease.







Human infection with a new subtype, but no human-to-human spread, or at most rare instances of spread to close contact.





New domestic animal outbreak in at-risk country





Suspected human outbreak overseas


Small cluster(s) with limited human-to-human transmission but spread is highly localized, suggesting that the virus is not well adapted to humans.


Confirmed human outbreak overseas


Larger clusters but human-to-human spread still localized, suggesting that the virus is becoming increasingly better adapted to humans, but may not yet be fully transmissible (substantial pandemic risk).









Pandemic phase: Increased and sustained transmission in general population.




Widespread human outbreaks in multiple locations overseas




First human case in North America




Spread throughout the U.S.




Recovery and preparation for subsequent waves







The following sites offer more information and resources regarding pandemic flu.

Response Plan

Read the Pandemic Response Plan (PDF).