or "flu" is a
highly contagious virus which can infect people and some animals. The
normal seasonal flu that spreads among people every year is a strain
called H3N2. The germs that cause seasonal flu have been with
for many years. Consequently, our bodies have been exposed to them
before in our daily lives and know how to fight the illness when we
Pandemic flu is
pandemic happens when a new strain of flu emerges and people have no
immunity to the virus. People who catch pandemic flu can get
sick because their bodies do not know how to fight it off.
A leading candidate to
next pandemic is a strain of flu virus called H5N1 (a bird
This virus spreads easily among birds and has killed large numbers of
them. The H5N1 virus is not highly contagious among humans
but it has infected over 300 people worldwide and killed more than half
of those infected. While the virus originated in birds, it
been mutating rapidly. It now infects mammals, including
more readily than it once did. At one point, a person had to
inhale the virus deep into the lungs to become infected; now H5N1 has
adapted to survive and multiply in the upper respiratory
tract, although it is still hard for humans to catch.
What Makes a Pandemic?
pandemic is a worldwide disease outbreak. The average time
elapsed between each of the last four flu pandemics was 25
The last pandemic, a mild one, was in 1968. For a flu virus
cause a pandemic, three things must happen. It must
The H5N1 virus meets
the first two
criteria. Many scientists and health officials are gravely
concerned that it will mutate further so that it is able to spread as
easily as the seasonal flu. If this happens, a pandemic will
begin. Although there are other flu viruses that could cause
pandemic, H5N1 is currently the leading – and most worrisome
bad could it be? In a
pandemic, it is expected that 20-50% of the world's people will become
infected. We do not know how many people will die, but so far, over 60%
of the people infected with H5N1 have died – compared to the
death rate for the last severe pandemic in 1918.Two percent of the US
population today would equal 6,067,670 people dying of influenza
– equivalent to all the people in Idaho, Nevada, Washington
Wyoming, and Montana dying. We hope that the fatality rate
decrease if/when a H5N1 pandemic begins, but the leading flu scientists
have said that it doesn't have to.
During this time, we
significant disruption in our lives as people get sick, die, are taking
care of loved ones, or are avoiding exposure to the virus.
Grocery, heat, water, electricity, sewer, and health care will be
there a cure? Some people
assume that modern science has a cure for a pandemic virus.
Unfortunately, that is not true. Although there are vaccines for
"regular" flu, it is unlikely that there will be a vaccine for the
first wave of a pandemic. Because flu viruses mutate, a pandemic has to
start, before we can begin making a vaccine that will be certain to
help. It takes 6 months to
make a vaccine, so
it will be at least six months after the pandemic starts before any
vaccine is available. The first batches of vaccine will be
to critical personnel.
There are drugs called
that may help people survive an H5N1 infection, but they must be given
very quickly after symptoms start, or they don't work. There are not
enough of these drugs for more than a fraction of the population. There
are already signs that H5N1 may be evolving resistance to these drugs.
The previous section
potential infection and fatality outcomes of pandemic flu. We need now
to understand the implications of this medical emergency in the context
of our daily lives and to specify what it may mean for you, the reader.
Our lives are supported by critical
healthcare, electricity, water supply, etc. These are the
systems we take for granted - until they break. No one thinks
electricity until it goes out. These systems are run, manned
maintained by people. And people get pandemic flu.
Regardless of how many
people get sick or die during a pandemic, the US federal government
tells us to expect the following:
To start this process,
need to have backups in all areas of your life. We recommend
citizens store at least three months of basic supplies and low-tech
options for household necessities.
On our homepage, we recommend each household have three months of food,
water (or purification capability), medications, and other basic
supplies on-hand. Let's look at why:
In terms of its scope, the impact of a severe pandemic may be more
comparable to that of war or a widespread economic crisis than a
hurricane, earthquake, or act of terrorism. In a localized emergency,
such as a hurricane, help can come from other areas of the country. In
a pandemic, everyone will be having the same shortages, and outside
help will not be available.