Influenza - Pandemic
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Influenza virus
A graphic of the microscopic H5N1 virus.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs). The flu is different from a cold. Influenza usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms: fever, headache, tiredness (can be extreme), dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. These symptoms are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms."

Influenza A viruses periodically cause worldwide epidemics, or pandemics, with high rates of illness and death. Unlike other public welfare emergencies, an influenza pandemic will impact on multiple communities across the United States and require swift and coordinated action and cooperation by all levels of government. Advanced planning for a large scale and widespread health emergency is required to optimize health care delivery during a pandemic. In addition, prevention and preparedness activities facilitate the response and recovery during and after an influenza pandemic.

17 Apr 13

Sample Q&A: The Disease

How is seasonal influenza different than pandemic influenza?

Key Differences Between Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza

Seasonal Influenza

Pandemic Influenza

Occurs every year during the winter months.

Can occur in any season; historically occurs three to four times a century.

Affects 5-20 percent of the U.S. population.

Experts predict an infection rate of 25-50 percent of the population, depending on the severity of the virus

Annually kills between 500,000 and 1 million people worldwide including 36,000-40,000 in the U.S.

The "Spanish Flu" of 1918 killed 500,000 in the U.S. and 50 million worldwide.

Most people recover within one or two weeks.

Usually associated with a higher severity of illness and a higher risk of death.

Deaths generally confined to "at risk" groups:

  • Elderly (over 65 years of age).
  • Young children aged 6-23 months.
  • Persons with existing medical conditions (i.e., lung disease, diabetes, cancer, kidney, or heart problems, or compromised immune systems).

All age groups may be at risk for infection, not just "at risk" groups:

  • Otherwise fit adults could be at relatively greater risk, based on patterns of previous epidemics.
  • For example, adults under age 35 (a key segment of the U.S. workforce) were disproportionately affected during the 1918 pandemic.
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Recommendations of the Defense Health Board (DHB)
Department of Health & Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Global Influenza
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) - One-stop access to U.S. Government H1N1, avian and pandemic flu information

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains the emergence and potential spread of new influenza viruses.

AFN: Chicken knows best when it comes to pandemic flu.
Chicken Knows Best Pandemic Flu
AFN: A chicken talks up Pandemic Flu.
Author(s): Fuller T, Gilbert M, Martin V, Cappelle J, Hosseini P, Njabo K, Abdel Aziz S, Xiao X, Daszak P, Smith T
Publication: Emerging Infectious Diseases
Subject: Disease
Influenza - Seasonal
Influenza - Pandemic
Author(s): Government Accountability Office
Publication: GAO-13-374T
Subject: Vaccine-General
Influenza - Seasonal
Influenza - Pandemic
Author(s): Kuster S, Coleman B, Raboud J, McNeil S, De Serres G, Gubbay J, Hatchette T, Katz K, Loeb M, Low D, Mazzulli T, Simor A, McGeer A, and on behalf of th
Publication: Emerging Infectious Diseases; Volume 19, Number 4—April 2013
Subject: Disease
Influenza - Pandemic
Influenza - H1N1
Author(s): Salmon D, Akhtar A, Mergler M, Vannice K, Izurieta H, Lee G, Vellozzi, Garman P, Cunningham F, Gellin B, Koh H, Lurie N, H1N1 Working Group
Publication: Pediatrics
Subject: Vaccine-Safety
Influenza - Pandemic
Influenza - H1N1