A pandemic is an epidemic occurring worldwide, over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people. Pandemics can be mild, moderate or severe, and the severity of the pandemic may vary from one region to another and change over time.

Whether an epidemic is classified as a pandemic is not based on the severity of the disease, but rather based on the speed and geographical area over which the disease has spread. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that pandemic status is reached when there is increased and sustained transmission of disease amongst the general population.

During a pandemic, organizations including businesses, governments and educational institutions can take a number of precautions to prevent the further spread of disease. Under the direction of the Infectious Diseases Information and Advisory Committee, UBC convenes working groups, which meet regularly to monitor the situation, develop plans, and respond as needed.

However, we each have a personal responsibility to assist in mitigating an emergent public health threat. On an individual level, there are things we can all do that will help us to stay healthy and reduce the risk of infection in ourselves and others:

Engage in healthy habits

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands right away after you sneeze, cough or touch used tissues. Don’t have a tissue? Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
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Reduce contact

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get essential medical care.
  • Avoid busy places such as transit, movie theatres, concerts and any other large gatherings.
  • If you suspect you have been infected, self-isolate and contact a medical professional.

Stay Informed

During a pandemic there is likely to be a lot of information circulating about the disease. Seek out reputable sources of information to stay informed:

Seek medical advice

If you are experiencing symptoms call your health provider or public health service before you go to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Make sure to mention your symptoms and recent travel history.

To reach your Provincial Public Health Line dial 8-1-1.

Travel appropriately

If travelling, please refer to government travel advisories at to make informed decisions while abroad.

Travellers with Canadian citizenship are advised to register their travel with the Canadian government here Travelers from the UBC community, regardless of citizenship, are further advised to book their travel through

UBC works with a service provider, International SOS (iSOS), to advise and support travelling students, faculty, and staff. For further details and access to the app with country-specific information visit

Be respectful to the community

The Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC recommends not to make assumptions about the risk of students, faculty or staff based on their ethnicity or travel history.

Every member of our university community has the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be welcomed and supported on our campus. No person should be targeted in any way or subjected to discrimination resulting from a misplaced perception that they may be a carrier of a communicable disease based on their perceived disability, race, ancestry, place of origin or otherwise.


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