| FYI: Health
Pandemic Influenza Planning: A
Guide for Individuals and Families
Get Informed. Be Prepared.
U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services
"Pandemics are global in nature, but their impact is local. When the next pandemic strikes, as it surely will, it is likely to touch the lives of every individual, family, and community. Our task is to make sure that when this happens, we will be a Nation prepared."
Mike Leavitt, Secretary
Pandemic Influenza - Get Informed. Be Prepared.
This guide is designed to help you understand the threat of a pandemic flu outbreak in our country and your community. It describes common sense actions that you can take in preparing for a pandemic. Each individual and family should know both the magnitude of what can happen during a pandemic outbreak and what actions you can take to help lessen the impact of an influenza pandemic on you and your community.
Pandemic Influenza: What I Need to Know
An influenza (flu) pandemic is a widespread outbreak of disease that occurs when a new flu virus appears that people have not been exposed to before. Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks of influenza. Seasonal flu outbreaks are caused by viruses that people have already been exposed to; flu shots are available to help prevent widespread illness, and impacts on society are less severe. Pandemic flu spreads easily from person to person and can cause serious illness because people do not have immunity to the new virus.
A pandemic may come and go in waves, each of which can last for months at a time. Everyday life could be disrupted due to people in communities across the country becoming ill at the same time. These disruptions could include everything from school and business closings to interruption of basic services such as public transportation and health care. An especially severe influenza pandemic could lead to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.
Some Differences Between Seasonal Flu and Pandemic Flu
A Historical Perspective
In the last century there were three influenza pandemics. All of them were called pandemics because of their worldwide spread and because they were caused by a new influenza virus. The 1918 pandemic was especially severe. The 1968 pandemic (Hong Kong flu) was the least severe, causing about the same number of deaths as the United States experiences every year with seasonal flu.
1918-1919 Most severe, caused at least 500,000 U.S. deaths and up to 40 million deaths worldwide.
1957-1958 Moderately severe, caused at least 70,000 U.S. deaths and 1-2 million deaths worldwide.
1968-1969 Least severe, caused at least 34,000 U.S. deaths and 700,000 deaths worldwide.
Importance and Benefits of Being Prepared
It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how severe it will be. The effects of a pandemic can be lessened if preparations are made ahead of time.
When a pandemic starts, everyone around the world could be at risk. The United States has been working closely with other countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen systems to detect outbreaks of influenza that might cause a pandemic.
A pandemic would touch every aspect of society, and so every aspect of society must begin to prepare. State, tribal, and local governments are developing, improving, and testing their plans for an influenza pandemic. Businesses, schools, universities, and other community organizations are preparing plans as well.
As you begin your individual or family planning, you may want to review your state's planning efforts and those of your local public health and emergency preparedness officials. Many of the state plans and other planning information can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/tab2.html.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies are providing funding, advice, and other support to your state. The federal government will provide up-to-date information and guidance to the public if an influenza pandemic unfolds. For reliable, accurate, and timely information, visit the federal government's official Web site at http://www.pandemicflu.gov/.
The benefits of preparation will be many. States and communities will be better prepared for any disaster. Preparation will bring peace of mind and the confidence that we are ready to fight a flu pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan (see www.hhs.gov/pandemicflu/plan). HHS activities detail the medical and public health response to an influenza pandemic.
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