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Pandemic Influenza

An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza "A" virus appears or “emerges” in the human population, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide.


Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks or epidemics of influenza. Seasonal outbreaks are caused by subtypes of influenza viruses that already circulate among people, whereas pandemic outbreaks are caused by new subtypes, subtypes that have never circulated among people, or by subtypes that have not circulated among people for a long period of time. Past influenza pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic losses.



Vaccines To Protect Against Pandemic Influenza Viruses


A vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic. Scientists around the world work together when developing a new vaccine against influenza to select the virus strain that will offer the best protection against that virus. Manufacturers then use the selected strain to develop a vaccine. Once a potential pandemic strain of influenza virus is identified, it can take several months before a vaccine is widely available. If a pandemic occurs, the U.S. government will work with many partner groups to make recommendations guiding the early use of available vaccine.



Antiviral Medications to Prevent and Treat Pandemic Influenza

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several different influenza antiviral medications for the treatment and/or prevention of influenza. Generally, these drugs will not ‘cure’ influenza, but rather will make the symptoms less severe and may shorten the length of the illness. All of them usually work against influenza "A" viruses. However, the drugs may not always work because influenza virus strains can become resistant to one or more of these medications.



Preparing for Pandemic Influenza


You can prepare for an influenza pandemic now. By gathering information and resources ahead of time, you can lessen the impact on you and your family.

  • Gather emergency supplies, especially food, water, and medical supplies.

  • Ask your doctor and insurance company if you can get an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs.

  • Have any nonprescription drugs and health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.

  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, and what will be needed to care for them in your home




  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people

  • If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicines), except to get medical care or for other necessities.

  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing strategies.



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