A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. It is determined by how the disease spreads, not how many deaths it causes.
With thousands of islanders leaving the island on a daily basis, and the numbers flying throughout the world, it doesn't take germs long to hitch a ride back on the return trip. For some bacteria or viruses our low immunization rates present an additional opportunity.
When a new influenza A virus emerges, a flu pandemic can occur. Because the virus is new, the human population has little to no immunity against it. With no immunity in the population, the virus spreads quickly from person-to-person worldwide. (- from www.flu.gov/pandemic/about/)
For an excellent talk about this history and future of flu response watch this Jan 2018 video by expert John Barry: www.fema.gov/preptalks/barry.
Seasonal Flu versus Pandemic Flu
|Rarely happens (three times in 20th century)
||Happens annually and usually peaks in January or February
|People have little or no immunity because they have no previous exposure to the virus
||Usually some immunity built up from previous exposure
|Healthy people may be at increased risk for serious complications
||Usually only people at high risk, not healthy adults, are at risk of serious complications
|Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed
||Health care providers and hospitals can usually meet public and patient needs
|Vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic
||Vaccine available for annual flu season
|Effective antivirals may be in limited supply
||Adequate supplies of antivirals are usually available
|Number of deaths could be high (The U.S. death toll during the 1918 pandemic was approximately 675,000)
||Seasonal flu-associated deaths in the United States over 30 years ending in 2007 have ranged from about 3,000 per season to about 49,000 per season.
|Symptoms may be more severe
||Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and muscle pain
|May cause major impact on the general public, such as widespread travel restrictions and school or business closings
||Usually causes minor impact on the general public, some schools may close and sick people are encouraged to stay home
|Potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy
||Manageable impact on domestic and world economy
(- also from www.flu.gov/pandemic/about/)
During times of severe flu, additional specific suggestions will be provided, but even before then a few guidelines may help:
- Maintain supplies at home that reduce your exposure to others
- Practice social distancing - don't touch hug/touch others as much if one of you has a known flu and sit further apart.
- Follow routine germ avoidance techniques (below) especially closely.