The Basics: Overview
Planning ahead and stopping 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 is caused by a new flu virus that spreads easily and makes many people sick around the world. For example, the H1N1 virus caused a flu pandemic in 2009.
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 kind of flu virus that most people have never come in contact with. That means it can spread very easily and make people very sick.
Will the seasonal flu vaccine protect me against a flu pandemic?
Probably not. Seasonal flu vaccines are made to protect people from the viruses experts think are most likely to make people sick during 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.
The Basics: How to Prepare
Is there a vaccine that protects against a flu pandemic?
If a new pandemic flu virus starts to spread, a new vaccine will be made to protect people against it. It’s important to get the new pandemic vaccine once it’s available. It can take time to make new vaccines to protect people from a pandemic flu virus.
How can I prepare for a flu pandemic?
The same steps you take every year to protect yourself and others from the seasonal flu can help in case of a pandemic. Follow these basic steps:
- Get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. Make sure everyone in your family age 6 months and older also gets a flu vaccine every year.
- Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Stay home from work or school if you are sick with a fever or have other flu symptoms.
It’s also a good idea to prepare for a flu pandemic like you would prepare for any emergency where you might need to stay home for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Gather supplies, like extra food, water, and medicine.
- Make an emergency plan for your family.
- Write down important health information.
The Basics: Learn More
How common are flu pandemics?
Flu pandemics don’t happen very often. There have only been 4 flu pandemics in the past 100 years – but they were very serious.
How serious are flu pandemics?
Not all flu pandemics are the same. Pandemics can range from mild (similar to a regular flu season) to severe (with lots of illness and death).
In a severe 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.