Impact to Communities Today

It is estimated that a flu pandemic today could result in anywhere from 2 to 7 million deaths, or more, around the world. Because of the high amount of world travel, the virus would likely spread very quickly (See number 16 in References). Sickness would be widespread, and infection rates would probably be higher than during a normal seasonal flu. It is estimated that a high percentage of the world’s population would need some form of medical care. At the same time, few countries would have the staff, buildings, equipment, and hospital beds needed to care for large numbers of people who fall ill (See number 8 in References).

A severe pandemic would result in high rates of illness and people would not be able to go to work. This would affect the economy and almost every aspect of day-to-day life. Daily life would become especially difficult when people who provide needed services like power, transportation, and communications, could not come to work.

Learn more about the impact of flu pandemics throughout history.

Important services may be disrupted

  • In a pandemic, services you normally use may not be available. These could include services provided by hospitals and other healthcare facilities, banks, restaurants, government offices, garbage collection, telephone and cell phone companies, and post offices.
  • Stores may close or have limited supplies.
  • Transportation services may not be available and public transportation may not be operable.
  • Public gatherings, like volunteer meetings and worship services, may be canceled.
  • The ability to travel, even by car if there are fuel shortages, may be limited.
  • Widespread severe illness could result in the shutdown of local ATMs and banks (See number 17 in References).

Food and water supplies may be limited

  • During a severe pandemic, food and water supplies could be affected so temporary shortages could occur (See number 17 in References).

Being able to work during a severe pandemic may be difficult or impossible

  • Business may be interrupted during a pandemic.
  • You may need to take leave or arrange to work from home to care for sick family members and avoid being around sick colleagues.
  • People may lose income if they are unable to work or companies temporarily close (See number 17 in References).

Schools and daycare centers may be closed for an extended period of time

  • Public and private preschool, childcare, trade schools, K-12, and colleges and universities may be closed to limit the spread of flu during a severe pandemic and to help prevent children from getting sick. School closings would likely happen very early in a pandemic and could happen on short notice.
  • Children may need to stay home for extended periods of time, as school closings may occur along with restrictions on public gatherings, such as at malls and movie theaters (See number 17 in References).

Medical care could be disrupted

  • In a severe pandemic, hospitals and doctors' offices may be overwhelmed and medical supplies and staff could become difficult to find.

Prepare now so you will know what to do in a pandemic: