Flu Pandemics occur when a new influenza virus emerges in the human population and spreads rapidly. With no immunity this results in a world wide epidemic with great numbers of illness and death. With overcrowded conditions, urbanization and an increase in global traffic, new influenza viruses can take hold quickly around the world. Governments, communities and industries are trying to prepare for and respond to an outbreak of a influenza pandemic. So what are the challenges and characteristics of a flu pandemic?
The Rapid Spread Globally: The worldwide spread is considered probable when a pandemic virus emerges. The entire world population would be susceptible and governments should prepare accordingly. Border closures and travel restrictions will be instituted by countries, but this will not stop the virus from spreading but only delay it. The Overloaded Health Care System
With no immunity to the pandemic virus, illness and infection rates can get out of hand. With a good percentage of the world’s population affected, most will require some form of medical attention. Governments will not have enough staff, facilities, hospital beds or equipment to cope with the large numbers of patients who fall ill.
High death rates are determined by these factors, the number of people infected, the effectiveness of preventative measures, the strength of the virus and the vulnerability of the affected population. The spread of past pandemics have come in two and sometimes three waves. Inadequate Medical Supplies Vaccines for the virus may not have been produced yet. Any supply of vaccines are likely to be insufficient due to the demand. Early in the pandemic, if available, antiviral drugs are also likely to be depleted. The pandemic will create a shortage of hospital beds and all other medical supplies. Due to the rapid spread of the disease non-traditional sites, such as schools, government buildings and other locations may be used as medical facilities due to the demand. The problem of who shall receive the antiviral drugs and vaccines and who won’t will be a difficult decision to make.
Social and Economic Disruption Major impacts to communities and citizens may occur due to closings of schools, bans on travel, cancellation of events and business closings to name a few. The primary reason for days missed from work or school will be due to fear of exposure to the virus and or caring for ill family members. What Should Communities, Businesses and Individuals Do? Implement prevention and controls recommended by public health officials. Develop emergency preparedness plans. Develop plans on how to function with a significant loss of the workforce and school population. Encourage sick employees and students to stay at home. Wash hands with soap and water frequently. Cover your mouth and nose or cough into your sleeve when you cough or sneeze. As much as possible, stay away from others if you are sick. Stay informed and be prepared to respond to a pandemic flu. Get frequent updates from National and International sources. Listen to the radio, television and other media sources so you can be aware of any possible outbreaks.
Three Pandemics of Influenza 1918 Flu Pandemic caused 675,000 deaths in the United States and up to 50 million deaths worldwide. 1957 Influenza Pandemic caused 70,000 deaths in the United States and up to 2 million deaths worldwide. 1968 Influenza Pandemic caused 34,000 deaths in the United States and 700,000 death worldwide. H1N1 Flu Outbreak CDC is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization. This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support. CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate this investigation.