What is Pandemic Influenza?

Pandemic influenza, or flu, is a global outbreak of disease in humans that occurs when these conditions are met:

  • A new strain of influenza virus not seen before in people

  • The virus can cause severe illness in people

  • The virus spreads easily from person to person

Influenza pandemics usually spread quickly around the world, resulting in unusually high number of illnesses and deaths. Such pandemics occurred in 1918, 1957, 1968 and in 2009 with the novel H1N1 strain of influenza.

Because people have not been infected with a similar virus in the past, most or all people will not have any natural immunity (protection) to a new pandemic virus. A pandemic influenza vaccine (flu shot) will not be immediately available. It first must be developed, tested and manufactured. This process could take months.

Learn more about flu pandemics (CDC)

Pandemic Preparedness

The Vermont Department of Health’s pandemic preparedness efforts include tracking the number of flu cases that occur in communities, as well as working with other government agencies, communities, hospitals, health care providers, and first responders to address and respond to the complex issues that the state faces during a pandemic.

There are a number of things that you can do to prepare yourself and those around you. It is important to think about the challenges that you might face, especially if a pandemic is severe. Go through a planning checklist to ensure that you plan for the impact of a flu pandemic on you, your family, or your business.

There are steps individuals and families can take to prepare for a pandemic:

  • Keep a supply of food and medicines on hand in case you have to stay at home.

  • Think about how you would care for people in your family who have special needs if support services are not available.

  • Decide who will take care of children if schools are closed.

Ways to prevent the spread of influenza include:

  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

  • Wash your hands often and well.

  • Stay at home and away from others when you are sick.

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