A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person-to-person, causes serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in very short time.
It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how severe it will be. Wherever and whenever a pandemic starts, everyone around the world is at risk. Countries might, through measures such as border closures and travel restrictions, delay arrival of the virus, but cannot stop it.
How Can I Protect My Family From Pandemic Influenza?
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough (or cough or sneeze on your shirt sleeve-not in your hands).
- Put your tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands.
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds. To help you remember, sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself two times!
- Get the influenza vaccine every year to significantly lower your chances of getting pneumonia due to influenza.
- People over the age of 65 and others with underlying illness should also receive the pneumococcal vaccine to lower their chances of getting a bacterial pneumonia along with influenza.
- Stay home when you are sick. Don’t run errands or go shopping. Ask a friend or relative for help if necessary. Call your healthcare provider if necessary.
How Does Seasonal Flu Differ From Pandemic Flu?
- Outbreaks follow predictable seasonal patterns: occurs annually, usually in winter, in temperate climates
- Usually some immunity built up from previous exposure
- Healthy adults usually not at risk for serious complications; the very young, the elderly and those with certain underlying health conditions at increased risk for serious complications
- Health systems can usually meet public and patient needs
- Vaccine developed based on known flu strains and available annual flu season
- Adequate supplies of antivirals are usually availableAverage U.S. deaths approximately 36,000/yr
- Occurs rarely(three times in 20th century-last in 1968)
- No previous exposure; little or no existing immunity
- Healthy people may be at increased risk for serious complications
- Health systems may be overwhelmed
- Vaccine probably would not be available in the early states of a pandemic
- Effective antivirals may be in limited supply
- Number of deaths could be quite high (e.g.;U.S. 1918 death toll approximately 500,000