Flu Pandemic FAQ

What is a flu pandemic?
A flu pandemic is a widespread occurrence of a new strain of the flu. It happens when this new strain of the flu virus appears without warning and spreads easily from person-to-person (See No 1 in References). Learn more about flu pandemics.


Who is at risk of getting sick during a flu pandemic?
Since it is a new virus, people have little or no defense against it. Historically, flu pandemics caused serious illness and death in otherwise young, healthy people, making everyone at risk (See No 12 in References). Learn more about the history of flu pandemics.


Why is a flu pandemic so dangerous?
Since the virus is new to the human immune system, people have little defense against it. The pandemic threat can quickly move from the first few infections in people to a full-blown pandemic. Unlike seasonal flu vaccines that become available before the flu season, flu pandemic vaccines only become available after a flu pandemic virus is identified and circulating (See No 18 in References). Learn what you can do to protect yourself.


Is flu pandemic serious?
The flu pandemic of 1918-1919 resulted in around 50 million deaths. With the right flu strain, the toll could be even higher today.


How often does a pandemic happen?
There have been four major pandemics and seven appearances of new flu viruses in humans since the beginning of the 20th Century (See No 10 in References), including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Flu pandemic remains a constant threat. Although health organizations around the world work to spot flu strains that may lead to pandemics, they continue to occur in random patterns throughout the world.


Why don’t vaccines protect against flu pandemic?
Seasonal flu vaccines protect against currently circulating flu viruses. But since a flu pandemic is caused by a new strain of the virus, seasonal flu vaccines do not protect against sudden flu outbreaks that may become pandemic threats. Pandemic vaccines only become available after a flu pandemic virus is identified and circulating (See No 18 in References). Learn the differences between seasonal flu and a flu pandemic.


What can I do if a flu pandemic happens?
The best defense is to be educated and prepared. There are many steps we can all take to help get ready for a flu pandemic. Learn more about what individuals and families, caregivers, teachers and day care staff, healthcare professionals and businesses can do to prepare. Plan Now for Flu Pandemic.