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

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  1. 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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