Pandemic Influenza Planning:
A Guide for Individuals and Families
Get Informed. Be Prepared.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
|“While the Federal Government will use all resources at its disposal to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic, it cannot do the job alone. This effort requires the full participation of and coordination by all levels of government and all segments of society… perhaps most important, addressing the challenge will require active participation by individual citizens in each community across our Nation.”
George W. Bush, President
“Pandemics are global in nature, but their impact is local. When the next pandemic strikes, as it surely will, it is likely to touch the lives of every individual, family, and community. Our task is to make sure that when this happens, we will be a Nation prepared.”
Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary
Pandemic Influenza – Get Informed. Be Prepared.
This guide is designed to help you understand the threat of a pandemic influenza outbreak in our country and your community. It describes commonsense actions you can take now in preparing for a pandemic. We cannot predict how severe the next pandemic will be or when it will occur, but being prepared may help lower the impact of an influenza pandemic on you and your family. Additional information including a planning checklist for individuals and families can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
What You Need to Know
An influenza (flu) pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of flu disease that occurs when a new type of influenza virus appears that people have not been exposed to before (or have not been exposed to in a long time). The pandemic virus can cause serious illness because people do not have immunity to the new virus. Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks of influenza that we see every year. Seasonal influenza is caused by influenza virus types to which people have already been exposed. Its impact on society is less severe than a pandemic, and influenza vaccines (flu shots and nasal-spray vaccine) are available to help prevent widespread illness from seasonal flu.
Influenza pandemics are different from many of the other major public health and health care threats facing our country and the world. A pandemic will last much longer than most flu outbreaks and may include “waves” of influenza activity that last 6-8 weeks separated by months. The number of health care workers and first responders able to work may be reduced. Public health officials will not know how severe a pandemic will be until it begins.
An Historical Perspective
In the last century there were three influenza pandemics. All of them were called pandemics because of their worldwide spread and because they were caused by a new influenza virus. The 1918 pandemic was especially severe.
Some Differences Between Seasonal Flu and Pandemic Flu
|Caused by influenza viruses that are similar to those already circulating among people.||Caused by a new influenza virus that people have not been exposed to before. Likely to be more severe, affect more people, and cause more deaths than seasonal influenza because people will not have immunity to the new virus.|
|Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle pain. Deaths can be caused by complications such as pneumonia.||Symptoms similar to the common flu but may be more severe and complications more serious.|
|Healthy adults usually not at risk for serious complications (the very young, the elderly, and those with certain underlying health conditions at increased risk for serious complications).||Healthy adults may be at increased risk for serious complications.|
|Every year in the United State, on average:
The effects of a severe pandemic could be much more damaging than those of a regular flu season. It could lead to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. Everyday life could be disrupted because so many people in so many places become seriously ill at the same time. Impacts could range from school and business closings to the interruption of basic services such a public transportation and food delivery.
Importance and Benefits of Being Prepared
The effects of a pandemic can be lessened if you prepare ahead of time. Preparing for a disaster will help bring peace of mind and confidence to deal with a pandemic.
When a pandemic starts, everyone around the world could be at risk. The United States has been working closely with other countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) to strengthen systems to detect outbreaks of influenza that might cause a pandemic.
A pandemic would touch every aspect of society, so every part of society must begin to prepare. All have roles in the event of a pandemic. Federal, state, tribal, and local governments are developing, improving, and testing their plans for an influenza pandemic. Businesses, schools, universities, and other faith-based and community organizations are also preparing plans.
As you begin your individual or family planning, you may want to review your state’s planning efforts and those of your local public health and emergency preparedness officials. State plans and other planning information can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/checklists.html.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies are providing funding, advice, and other support to your state. The federal government will provide up-to-date information and guidance to the public if an influenza pandemic unfolds.
For reliable, accurate, and timely information, visit the federal government’s official Web site atwww.pandemicflu.gov.
Pandemic Influenza – Challenges and Preparation
As you and your family plan for an influenza pandemic, think about the challenges you might face, particularly if a pandemic is severe.
You can start to prepare now to be able to respond to these challenges. The following are some challenges you or your family may face and recommendations to help you cope. In addition, checklists and other tools have been prepared to guide your planning efforts. A series of planning checklists can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/checklists.html.
Essential Services You Depend on May Be Disrupted
Food and Water Supplies May Be Interrupted and Limited
Food and water supplies may be interrupted so temporary shortages could occur. You may also be unable to get to a store. To prepare for this possibility you should store at least one to two weeks supply of non-perishable food and fresh water for emergencies.
Being Able to Work May Be Difficult or Impossible
For the Business Checklist visit: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/businesschecklist.html
Schools and Daycare Centers May Be Closed for an Extended Period of Time
For the “Childcare, School, and University Checklist,” visit: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/tab5.html
Medical Care for People with Chronic Illness Could be Disrupted
A “Family Emergency Health Information Sheet” is provided in this guide and at:http://www.pandemicflu.gov/planguide/familyhealthinfo.html
Pandemic Influenza – Prevention and Treatment
These steps may help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses such as the flu:
Vaccines are used to protect people from contracting a virus once a particular threat is identified. After an individual has been infected by a virus, a vaccine generally cannot help to combat it. Because viruses change over time, a specific pandemic influenza vaccine cannot be produced until a pandemic influenza virus emerges and is identified. Once a pandemic influenza virus has been identified, it will likely take 4-6 months to develop, test, and begin producing a vaccine.
While there is currently no human pandemic influenza in the world, the federal government is facilitating production of vaccines for several existing avian influenza viruses. These vaccines may provide some protection should one of these viruses change and cause an influenza pandemic. The supply of pandemic vaccine will be limited, particularly in the early stages of a pandemic. Efforts are being made to increase vaccine-manufacturing capacity in the United States so that supplies of vaccines would be more readily available. In addition, research is underway to develop new ways to produce vaccines more quickly.
A number of antiviral drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat and prevent seasonal influenza. Some of these antiviral medications may be effective in treating pandemic influenza. These drugs may help prevent infection in people at risk and shorten the duration of symptoms in those infected with pandemic influenza. However, it is unlikely that antiviral medications alone would effectively contain the spread of pandemic influenza. The federal government is stockpiling antiviral medications that would most likely be used in the early stages of an influenza pandemic and working to develop new antiviral medications. These drugs are available by prescription only.
Questions and Answers
Will bird flu cause the next influenza pandemic?
Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of wild and farm birds caused by avian influenza viruses. Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but since 1997 there have been a number of confirmed cases of human infection from bird flu viruses. Most of these resulted from direct or close contact with infected birds (for example: domesticated chickens, ducks, and turkeys). It is important not to handle, play with, or pick up dead birds. Information on who to contact in your state is at:http://www.pandemicflu.gov/state/statecontacts.html
The spread of bird flu viruses from an infected person to another person has been reported very rarely and has not been reported to continue beyond one person. A worldwide pandemic could occur if a bird flu virus were to change so that it could easily be passed from person to person. Experts around the world are watching for changes in bird flu viruses that could lead to an influenza pandemic.
Is it safe to eat poultry?
Yes, it is safe to eat properly cooked poultry. Cooking destroys germs, including bird flu viruses. The United States maintains trade restrictions on the importation of poultry and poultry products from countries where the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain has been detected in commercial or traditionally raised poultry, not in wild or migratory birds.
Guidelines for the safe preparation of poultry include the following:
For more information, see poultry preparation fact sheets at:http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Poultry_Preparation_Fact_Sheets/index.asp
What types of birds can carry bird flu viruses?
Avian influenza viruses can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, and guinea fowl, as well as a wide variety of other birds, including migratory waterfowl.
Will the seasonal flu shot protect me against pandemic influenza?
What is the U.S. government doing to prepare for pandemic influenza?
For More Information
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hotline, 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636), is available in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TTY: 1-888-232-6348. Questions can be emailed to email@example.com.
Links to state departments of public health can be found atwww.pandemicflu.gov/state/statecontacts.html.
The World Health Organization –
WHO is coordinating the global response to human cases of H5N1 avian influenza and monitoring the corresponding threat of an influenza pandemic. Information on this page tracks the evolving situation and provides access to both technical guidelines and information useful for the general public.