Prepare for a Flu Pandemic

The Basics
A flu pandemic is a global outbreak of a new flu virus that spreads around the world and makes many people sick.

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Make an emergency plan with your family.

Start Today: Small Steps

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The Basics

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Planning ahead and taking steps to stop the spread of germs can help keep you and your family safe if there’s a flu pandemic.

What is a flu pandemic?

A flu pandemic happens when a new flu virus spreads easily and makes many people sick around the world. Similar to seasonal (regular) flu, a flu pandemic is caused by a virus that infects the nose, throat, and lungs.

How is a flu pandemic different from seasonal flu?

Flu pandemics and seasonal flu are caused by different viruses. Flu pandemics are usually caused by a new flu virus that spreads from animals to people. Since most people have never come in contact with it before, it can spread very easily and cause lots of illness.

How common are flu pandemics?

Flu pandemics don’t happen very often. There have only been 3 flu pandemics in the past 100 years.

What happens during a flu pandemic?

In a serious flu pandemic, many people get sick at the same time. This can cause schools, businesses, and community events to shut down in order to slow the spread of illness. Learn more about flu pandemics.

Will the seasonal flu vaccine protect me against a flu pandemic?

Probably not – although it's still important. Seasonal flu vaccines are made to protect people from the viruses experts think are most likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. Since a flu pandemic is caused by a new virus, the seasonal flu vaccine probably won’t protect you from a flu pandemic.

Is there a vaccine that protects against a flu pandemic?

The U.S. government keeps a supply of vaccines that may protect people against a flu pandemic. But if a new flu virus starts to spread, a new vaccine may be needed to protect people against it.

It can take time to make new vaccines to protect people from a pandemic flu virus – but it’s important to get the new pandemic vaccine once it’s available.

How can I prepare for a flu pandemic?

The same steps you take every year to protect yourself and others from seasonal flu can also help during a flu pandemic. Follow these basic steps:

It’s also a good idea to prepare for a flu pandemic like you would prepare for any emergency. Take these steps:


Take Action!

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Take steps to stop the spread of germs and to prepare for a flu pandemic.

Stop the spread of germs.

Take these steps to help stop the spread of flu viruses:

If there's a flu pandemic, follow the advice of local officials about school and other closings.

Get a seasonal flu vaccine every year.

The best way to protect yourself and others from flu is to get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu vaccine every year.

Use this flu clinic locator External Links Disclaimer Logo to find out where you can get a flu vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from seasonal flu, but it probably won’t protect you against a new pandemic flu virus. In a pandemic, a new vaccine will need to be made – and this may take time.


Start Today: Small Steps

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