Pandemic Flu General Info
Pandemic Influenza
A pandemic is as a worldwide outbreak of disease. Currently, there is no pandemic flu among humans. However, one can occur when:
a new (or novel) influenza A virus appears in humans, one for which we have little or no immunity,
the virus causes serious illness, and
the virus spreads easily from person to person.

The impact that a pandemic would have on individuals, communities, the nation and the world will depend on its severity and the location(s) and speed in which human infections occur. Experts have suggested that if we experienced a pandemic similar in intensity as the 1918 Spanish flu, our economy would respond similarly to how it did during the depression. However, any size pandemic has the potential of changing the way we currently live our lives.

An especially severe influenza pandemic could lead to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. Everyday life would be disrupted because so many people in so many places become seriously ill at the same time. Impacts can range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services such as public transportation and food delivery.

A substantial percentage of the world's population will require some form of medical care. Health care facilities can be overwhelmed, creating a shortage of hospital staff, beds, and other supplies. Non traditional locations for medical care need to be created to cope with demand.

The World Health Organization (WHO) uses a series of six phases of pandemic alert as a system for informing the world of the seriousness of the threat and of the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities. Each phase of alert coincides with a series of recommended activities to be undertaken by WHO, the international community, governments, industry, and citizens. The world is presently in phase 3: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans.

Click here for a brochure about pandemic flu.
Pandemic Flu is Different from Seasonal Flu
Pandemic flu differs significantly from the routine seasonal flu we see each year. Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available. Pandemic flu can have a much larger impact on individuals, communities and society as a whole.

Seasonal Flu

Pandemic Flu

Outbreaks follow predictable seasonal patterns; occurs annually, usually in winter, in temperate climates

Occurs rarely (three times in 20th century - last in 1968)

Usually some immunity built up from previous exposure

No previous exposure; little or no pre-existing immunity

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

Healthy people may be at increased risk for serious complications

Health systems can usually meet public and patient needs

Health systems may be overwhelmed

Vaccine developed based on known flu strains and available for annual flu season

Vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic

Adequate supplies of antivirals are usually available

Effective antivirals may be in limited supply

Average U.S. deaths approximately 36,000/yr

Number of deaths could be quite high (e.g., U.S. 1918 death toll approximately 675,000)

Symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, muscle pain. Deaths often caused by complications, such as pneumonia.

Symptoms may be more severe and complications more frequent

Generally causes modest impact on society (e.g., some school closing, encouragement of people who are sick to stay home)

May cause major impact on society (e.g. widespread restrictions on travel, closings of schools and businesses, cancellation of large public gatherings)

Manageable impact on domestic and world economy

Potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy

For additional information on seasonal flu visit: http://www.hhs.gov/flu.