An influenza (flu) pandemic is a global outbreak of a new flu virus that can spread easily from person to person. Like the seasonal flu many people experience every year, pandemic flu will probably spread by infected people coughing or sneezing and by touching an infected surface. Unlike seasonal flu, people will have little immunity to the new flu virus that causes a pandemic, and many more people will get sick.
Right now, there is no immediate threat of a flu pandemic in Pennsylvania or the United States. However, Pennsylvania is taking an aggressive approach to preparing for the possibility of a pandemic flu outbreak in humans or animals sometime in the future. It’s important to know that there are steps you and your family can take as well to help prepare for this threat, which are detailed below.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN AN INFLUENZA PANDEMIC
If a flu pandemic occurs, it will likely be a prolonged and widespread outbreak that could require temporary changes in many parts of our everyday lives, including schools, work, transportation and other public services. Being informed and prepared for what will happen will decrease your risk. The following are some situations to expect in the event of a flu pandemic:
- Hospitals and doctors might be overwhelmed with sick patients.
- Schools and businesses might close to keep the virus from spreading or because too many people are sick.
- Essential supplies and services may become limited or unavailable.
- Travel and public gatherings might be limited to keep the virus from spreading.
- Public health officials may suggest using isolation or quarantine measures to control the spread of infection.
- There may not be a vaccine to protect people against the pandemic flu.
- Antiviral medicines may be in limited supply. If vaccines or antiviral medicines are available, you may be asked to go to a certain community location to get vaccinated or receive the medicine.
- The pandemic could last a long time. Sometimes, there are several waves of illness that occur over a series of months or even more than a year.
WHAT TO DO
Every Pennsylvanian has an important role to play in preparing for a flu pandemic and helping to prevent the spread of influenza:
- Get an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live on for a minimum of three days.
- Make an emergency plan for you and your family.
- Practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently.
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Regularly clean surfaces that are touched by multiple people.
- Stay home from work or school when you are sick.
- Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and getting enough rest.
- Get a yearly flu vaccination, especially if you are at high risk for flu complications.
- Discuss individual health concerns with your doctor.
- Plan to help your family, friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone or may need assistance in an emergency.
- Stay informed about pandemic influenza and be prepared to respond. You can find more information at the Pennsylvania Pandemic Preparedness website.