|What is a Pandemic?|
What Is An Influenza Pandemic
An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears in humans, causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe in the 20th century causing millions of deaths, and no one knows for sure when the next pandemic may strike.
What’s the difference between a pandemic and a seasonal outbreak of flu?
A pandemic is caused by a new influenza A virus that most people have never been exposed to, so everyone is susceptible. Pandemic strains also often cause more serious disease. Because of this, past flu pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption and economic loss.
Seasonal outbreaks of flu are caused by strains of flu virus similar to those of past years. Some people may have built up immunity, and there is also a vaccine for each year’s flu season.
Flu pandemics are different from many of the threats for which public health and the health-care system are currently planning:
Click here to view the current status of seasonal influenza activity in the U.S.
When will the next influenza pandemic occur?
Three pandemics occurred in the 20th century, all of which spread around the world within one year of being detected. Of these, the pandemic of 1918-1919 was the most severe, with 50 million or more deaths worldwide.
No one can predict when a pandemic might occur, but many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the next one arises. Experts from around the world are watching the current worldwide Swine Flu (H1N1) and H5N1 Avian (bird) Flu situations very closely. There is current speculation that the Swine Flu outbreaks that we are now seeing may be the start of the next influenza pandemic. With that in mind, EMS Agencies and Health Care Providers need to make certain that they are prepared to face the challenges that will likely be brought by a influenza pandemic.
Characteristics and Challenges of a Pandemic
Rapid Worldwide Spread
If a new and severe strain of flu were to begin spreading across the globe, Virginia would not be spared from its impact. The severity of the next pandemic cannot be predicted, but modeling studies suggest that its effect in the United States could be severe.
In the absence of any control measures (vaccination or drugs), it has been estimated that in the United States a “medium–level” pandemic could cause:
Influenza Preparedness & Planning for businesses, the community, schools, transportation, federal, state and local governments.
Where To Go To Learn More
CDC Pandemic Influenza Worldwide Preparedness Webpage
Center For Infectious Disease Research And Policy
The World Health Organization (WHO)
WHO Global Influenza Program
WHO Influenza at the Human-Animal Interface (HAI)