A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. It is determined by how the disease spreads, not how many deaths it causes. When a new influenza A virus emerges, a flu pandemic can occur. Because the virus is new, the human population has little to no immunity against it.
Characteristics and Challenges of a Flu Pandemic
- Rapid Worldwide Spread
- When a pandemic flu virus emerges, expect it to spread around the world.
- You should prepare for a pandemic flu as if the entire world population is susceptible.
- Countries may try to delay the pandemic flu’s arrival through border closings and travel restrictions, but they cannot stop it.
- Overloaded Health Care Systems
- Most people have little or no immunity to a pandemic virus. Infection and illness rates soar. A substantial percentage of the world’s population will require some form of medical care.
- Nations are unlikely to have the staff, facilities, equipment, and hospital beds needed to cope with the number of people who get the pandemic flu.
- Death rates may be high. Four factors largely determine the death toll:
- The number of people who become infected
- The strength of the virus
- The underlying characteristics and vulnerability of affected populations
- The effectiveness of preventive measures
- Past pandemics spread globally in two or sometimes three waves.
- Inadequate Medical Supplies
- The need for vaccines is likely to be larger than the supply. Those at highest risk will likely get the vaccine first.
- Early in a pandemic, the need for antiviral medications is likely to be larger than the supply. Those at highest risk will likely get antiviral medications first.
- A pandemic can create a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators, and other supplies. Alternative sites, such as schools, may serve as medical facilities.
- Disrupted Economy and Society
- Travel bans, event cancellations, and school and business closings could have a major impact on communities and citizens.
- Caring for sick family members and fear of exposure could result in significant employee absenteeism.
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