|MVNU Home / Emergency and Safety Main Page|
Seasonal/Pandemic Flu Information
The flu virus is constantly changing.
Pandemic flu is any new form of the flu virus that:
- Is easily spread between people
- Few people are immune to - if any
Compared to the yearly seasonal flu, pandemic flu can make many more people sick - and may cause more severe illness.
Pandemic flu facts
- Flu pandemics have occurred throughout history and will happen again. There were three flu pandemics in the last century in 1918, 1957, and 1968.
- A flu pandemic could happen at any time.
- No one can predict when or where it could start. A moderate flu pandemic could affect thousands. But a severe one could affect millions.
- Pandemic flu is not bird flu. However, many experts think the next pandemic flu could be a bird (avian) flu virus called H5N1 - if it evolves into a new form.
- Large gatherings might be discouraged to control the spread of the disease (schools and businesses may close, sporting events could be cancelled and transportation could be limited).
- Hospitals may be overloaded. Doctors and nurses will get sick too.
- Public services may be limited as it is expected that up to half the population could miss work at any one time.
But... there's no need to panic!
Federal, state, and local governments are taking steps to prepare for a flu pandemic.
To see what the State of Ohio is doing to prepare for a pandemic, visit www.ohiopandemicflu.gov. This inter-agency Web site includes many resources for Ohioans:
- Planning resources for Ohio's families, schools, businesses, communities, health care providers and local governments
- Fact sheets, questions and answers, multimedia files, brochures, and more
- Quarterly planning newsletters - subscribe here
The World Health Organization Web site www.who.int/en/ provides updates on avian influenza around the world in several languages. Other resources include:
- Advice for travelers
- Frequently asked questions
- Industry guidelines
Pandemic flu can spread fast.
The flu spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes. These can spray droplets containing the virus through the air and:
- Into the mouths or noses of people nearby
- Onto surfaces that people touch before touching their nose, mouth, or eyes
People with the flu can also leave the virus on things they touch if they have the flu germs on their hands.
Seasonal flu vs. pandemic flu
|Outbreaks follow predictable seasonal patterns; occurs annually, usually in winter.
||Occurs rarely (three times in last century).
|People may have some immunity built up from previous exposure.
||No previous exposure; little or no pre-existing immunity.
|Healthy adults usually not at risk for serious complications; the very young, the elderly, and those with certain underlying health conditions are at increased risk for serious complications.
||Healthy people may be at increased risk for serious complications
|Health system doctors and hospitals can usually meet public and patient needs.
||Health systems will likely be overwhelmed.
|Vaccine developed based on known flu strains and available for annual flu season.
||Vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic.
|Adequate supplies of the antivirals are usually available.
||Effective antivirals may be in limited supply.
|Symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, muscle pain. Deaths often caused by complications, such as pneumonia.
||Symptoms may be more severe and complications more frequent.
|Generally causes modest impact on society (e.g., some school closing, encouragement of people who are sick to stay home, etc.).
||May cause major impact on society (e.g., widespread restrictions on travel, closings of schools and businesses, cancellation of large public gatherings).
|Manageable impact on domestic and world economy.
||Potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy.
Catching the flu from an infected animal is rare.
This could happen through contact with an infected animals feces, saliva, or mucus. But if an animal flu virus evolves so that it could infect humans - and be passed from human to human - it could start a flu pandemic.
Practicing good hygiene is the most important thing you can do.
Wash your hands regularly. This helps prevent the flu virus - and other germs - from spreading.
Always wash hands with soap and water:
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- After using the bathroom
- Before and after preparing or eating food
- After contact with raw meat or eggs
- Before and after changing a diaper
- Before and after any contact with someone who is sick or injured
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After household chores or yardwork
- Any time hands are visibly dirty
Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available:
- Rub the gel or wipe all over both hands
- Rub hands together until they feel dry
Wash your hands well. Follow these steps each time.
- Wet hands with warm water.
- Lather both hands with soap. In general, any type of soap can help prevent the spread of germs.
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Wash wrists, palms, back of hands, fingers and under fingernails.
- Rinse hands thoroughly. Turn off the faucet with a towel.
- Dry hands on a clean towel. Or, let hands air dry if no clean towel is available. If you use a disposable towel, throw it away afterward.
Additional healthy habits:
- Cover caught and sneezes. Use a tissue. If you don't have one, use your upper sleeve, not your hands. If using a tissue, wash your hands afterward. Stay at least three feet away from others when sneezing or coughing, or from others who are.
- Don't share personal items like towels, utensils, cups, razors, or toothbrushes.
- Practice food safety. Thoroughly cook meat, poultry, and eggs. Carefully clean any surface and preparation utensils.
- Get a flu shot every year. This can help protect you from the seasonal flu, which can also be serious.
- Teach children how to protect themselves. It's especially important from them to wash their hands often and cover coughs and sneezes. Also, tell them never to play with or touch sick or dead animals.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading germs.
- Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth as germs often spread this way.
- Check the news regularly. If there is a flu pandemic, public health authorities will provide information and instruction.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products.
- Drink plenty of water and go easy on salt, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Thirty minutes or more of physical activity most days of the week can help boost your immunity.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep is shown to help your body's ability to fight off illness.