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Pandemic Flu & You

What does the word "pandemic" mean?

A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that covers a wide geographic area and affects large numbers of people. The H5N1 flu virus (bird flu) could become a pandemic flu.

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Why is a pandemic flu deadlier than the seasonal flu?

  • Pandemic flu is caused by a new virus or one to which humans have not been exposed in a very long time (probably not within the lifetime of anyone currently living).
  • Pandemic flu spreads rapidly and is seen worldwide.
  • Pandemic flu infects large numbers of people of all ages and causes serious illness and deaths

How long would an H5N1 pandemic last?

An H5N1 pandemic would probably come in waves. In each wave about 1/4 of the population could be infected. People who become ill in the first wave could also become sick in later waves. Each wave could last about 8-12 weeks, and the period between waves could vary between 8-20 weeks. Most likely, an H5N1 pandemic would have at least three waves and could last for over 12 months.

When will the next flu pandemic occur?

No one knows for sure. The period between flu pandemics does not follow any regular pattern. Many scientists think the H5N1 virus is showing signs of becoming a pandemic flu virus, though they are not certain when an H5N1 pandemic might start. When it reaches the U.S. there will be national media reports of the initial cases of pandemic flu.

What will happen if a flu pandemic occurs in the U.S.?

Pandemic flu could spread across the U.S. within weeks causing:

  • Disease in thousands of people (up to 25% of the population).
  • Potential deaths in all age groups.
  • Significant pressure and disruption to all health services.
  • Potential disruption to all aspects of daily life.
  • Possible emergency measures that will affect the entire nation.
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