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.