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Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe during the 20th century causing millions of deaths. No one knows when the next pandemic may strike or which variation of the influenza virus it will be, but many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the next one occurs. Experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 Avian (bird) Flu situation in the Middle East, Europe and Asia very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily and widely from person to person.
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Pandemic influenza is a worldwide outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus to which people have little or no immunity appears in humans then spreads easily from person to person. The symptoms of such a virus would probably be similar to those of seasonal influenza, but the duration and/or severity of the symptoms might be different.
The virus would spread the same way as a seasonal influenza virus. The prevention and treatment measures for such a virus would also be the same as for seasonal influenza. The H5N1 "bird flu" is one virus that could potentially cause a pandemic. Any one of several other new or unusual strains of influenza could also cause a pandemic.
Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe during the 20th century causing millions of deaths. No one knows when the next pandemic may strike or which variation of the influenza virus it will be. Efforts are underway to combat the serious impact a pandemic could have on Kansans.
Pandemic influenza is a worldwide outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus to which people have little or no immunity appears in humans then spreads easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu or influenza.
Avian or "bird flu" is caused by avian influenza viruses, which occur naturally among birds.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In Kansas, the peak of the season is generally January or February. Vaccinations are available for seasonal flu in the fall of each year.
Visit the CDC's page on influenza for the answer to this question.
If a new and severe strain of influenza were to begin spreading around the world, Kansas would not be spared from its impact. The severity of the next pandemic cannot be predicted, but modeling studies suggest that its effect in the United States would be severe. In the absence of any control measures (vaccinations or antivirals), it has been estimated that a medium-level pandemic in the U.S. could cause:
In Kansas, estimates of impact of pandemic influenza include:
Current flu vaccines will not protect against a new pandemic strain of the flu virus. Because it takes several months to develop and distribute a vaccine for a new strain, a vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic. If a pandemic occurs, it is expected that the U.S. government will work with many partner groups to make recommendations to guide the early use of the vaccine.
Antiviral medications can be used to treat and/or prevent influenza A viruses. However, flu strains can become resistant to antiviral medications. For example, only one antiviral medication works against the H5N1 Avian Flu virus identified in human patients in Asia in 2004 and 2005. The supply of this antiviral medication is very limited worldwide, and no pharmaceutical company in the United States manufactures it.
Protect yourself against the spread of the flu and other germs and viruses:
Visit the CDC's Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against Flu page for more information.
When preparing for a possible emergency situation such as pandemic influenza, it is important to consider the basics of survival, including fresh drinking water, food, clean air and warmth. Since it may be necessary to protect yourself and others from being infected with the virus, you may have to remain in your home for several days. The checklist below contains item that will be important to your survival and comfort if you cannot leave your home and people cannot enter: