The pandemic H1N1 influenza (flu) was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the H1N1 flu virus had spread to enough countries to be considered a global pandemic. Southwest District Health’s first positive case was reported in June 2009.
A pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of a new strain of flu virus, to which people have little or no immunity and it spreads easily from person to person. This pandemic stage does not mean that the disease is deadlier or more severe, just that it has spread to more countries.
Although it had been over forty years since the last Hong Kong Influenza pandemic occurred in 1968, pandemic flu is not new. Records show that about thirty influenza pandemics and numerous “pandemic threats” have occurred throughout history. Therefore, Southwest District Health had planned and exercised in preparation for such an event, hoping of course it would not actually occur.
This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs (swine) in North America. But further study determined this new virus was very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs.
In general, illness in the U.S. ranged from mild to severe, and most people that tested positive for the virus recovered without requiring medical treatment. Unlike seasonal flu, younger people suffered a disproportionate share of the confirmed cases of H1N1 flu. The same was true in Southwest Idaho and in Idaho cases in general.
During a typical flu season Southwest District Health (SWDH) administers anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 vaccinations within their clinics. During the H1N1 pandemic, SWDH held 231 mass vaccination clinics within Southwest Idaho and 55,961 individuals were vaccinated.
According to Bruce Krosch, District Director for Southwest District Health, “H1N1 pushed our health district to meet new standards and challenges that we have never experienced before. I am proud to say that by working together, our staff, contract workers, volunteers, and community partners met the challenge by performing well beyond our expectations.”
Novel H1N1 Influenza Overview in Health District 3
Note: (Laboratory-confirmed deaths are thought to represent an undercount of the actual number. CDC has provided estimates about the number of 2009 H1N1 cases and related hospitalizations and deaths).
Seasonal flu, bird flu, and pandemic flu are not the same.
Seasonal Influenza, more commonly known as the Flu, is a contagious, respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and spread from person to person. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available. In a typical year, 36,000 deaths in the U.S. and 500,000 deaths worldwide result from seasonal flu. The best way to prevent this illness is by getting a flu vaccination.
Differences Between Seasonal and Pandemic Flu
Bird flu (or avian influenza) is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. The H5N1 variant is the influenza strain that is deadly to domestic fowl and can be transmitted from birds to humans. This type of bird flu has not yet been found in the U.S. There is no human immunity and no vaccine available.
For more information see the World Health's Organization Avian influenza Fact sheet.
Pandemic flu occurs when there is a major change in the genetic make up of an influenza virus. This new human flu virus causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person-to-person, and all humans are susceptible. Currently, there is no pandemic flu and no vaccine is available.
Infection Control for persons with flu symptoms include:
When we talk about pandemics we know one thing – the impact will be widespread. As a community we will need to take non-medical steps to reduce the impact of a pandemic. This is especially important since the development and deployment of a vaccine is likely to take months. Further, we can't know for sure whether anti-viral medications like Tamiflu will work. Planning now can help the entire community reduce the effects of a pandemic, or any other emergency situation.
Pandemic Preparation Checklists
Make a Plan
History tells us that pandemics happen; science tells us it's time to develop a plan. Health officials around the world recommend that schools, families, and businesses prepare a Pandemic Influenza plan. You can visit the American Red Cross Web site for guidance in preparing one; visit the federal government's Pandemic Influenza web site for planning tools.
Build a Kit
Every household should assemble a disaster supplies kit and keep it current. Stock a supply of water, food, and other essentials. During a pandemic you may not be able to get to a store. Even if you can get to a store, it may be out of supplies because of a disruption in transportation services. Public utilities may also be interrupted. Stocking up now can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and natural disasters. Store foods that:
Practice Good hygiene habits and Stay healthy
Take common sense steps to limit the spread of germs. Make good hygiene a habit.
Make sure your family's immunizations are up-to-date.
Quit smoking, improve your diet, exercise regularly and get regular medical check-ups.
Knowing the facts is the best preparation. Contact public health to learn the importance of planning and preparing. If a pandemic occurs, having accurate and reliable information will be critical. Group presentations, planning materials, and other resources are available.
You may find it difficult to work
Your employer may ask you to stay home if you or a family member is sick. Now is the time to start the conversation with your employer about whether you'll be able to work from home. What are the company policies on sick leave? What would happen if your income is reduced or lost completely because your employer is forced to close?
Schools may be closed for a long time
In Idaho each school district is responsible for planning for a pandemic event. What is the plan at your children's schools? Talk with the school nurse, teachers, administrators and parent-teacher organizations. What plans are in place if health officials determine that schools should be closed? You may have to plan some home learning activities and exercises.
Pandemic Flu School Preparation
Other sources for reliable information:
Idaho Health & Welfare
American Red Cross
World Health Organization
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