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Preparing for a Swine Flu (H1N1) Pandemic
Updated On: Sep 13, 2009


Preparing for a Swine Flu (H1N1) Pandemic

Family Preparedness Fact Sheet

The symptoms of pandemic flu are likely to be similar to those of seasonal flu, which are:

  1. Fever
  2. Sore throat
  3. Cough
  4. Runny or stuffy nose
  5. Extreme tiredness
  6. Headache
  7. Muscle aches and pains
  8. Stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

Contact a health care provider if you have any questions about specific symptoms. Visit

The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. In the United States, flu season begins every fall and ends every spring. The flu people get during this season is called seasonal flu. Sometimes, a new type of flu virus may emerge to which people have no resistance. When this happens, it can spread more easily from person to person around the world in a very short time, causing serious illness and death. This is pandemic flu. for more detailed flu symptom information.

Pandemic Flu: the Disease

Pandemic flu is more serious than seasonal flu. Most people who get seasonal flu recover within a week or two and do not require medical treatment. The very young, the very old and the very sick are most likely to become seriously ill from seasonal flu. Pandemic flu is different because more people who get it might not recover, even with medical treatment, and people of every age may be at risk of serious illness or death.

Unlike seasonal flu, there may not be a vaccine for pandemic flu until researchers and pharmaceutical companies are able to create one. Vaccine development depends on the scientific understanding of the specific virus causing the disease. If a vaccine is developed for pandemic flu, it will be a challenge to produce enough for everyone and dispense it to all the people that need it in a timely manner.




Flu Pandemic: the Event

An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza virus, to which people have little or no immunity, appears in the human population. It causes a serious illness that spreads easily from person to person worldwide.

Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks of influenza. Seasonal outbreaks are caused by subtypes of influenza viruses that are already in existence among people, whereas pandemic outbreaks are caused by new subtypes or by subtypes that have never circulated among people or that have not circulated among people in a long time.

In the 20th century, flu pandemics occurred in 1918, 1957 and 1968. The 1918 pandemic led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption and economic loss. It is estimated it killed more than 20 million people worldwide.

Flu Pandemic: Preparedness

During a flu pandemic, government officials may impose activity, movement or travel restrictions to prevent the flu virus from spreading. You may be asked to stay home for an extended period of time even if you are not sick. Schools, workplaces and public gatherings, such as sporting events or worship services, may close temporarily. Mass transportation such as subways, buses, trains and air travel—may be limited. You and your family and friends may need to rely on each other.

Think about how you handle stress and know your strengths. Take steps to plan for, get through and recover from a flu pandemic.

  1. Store a two-week supply of food that does not require refrigeration, preparation or cooking. Ensure that formula for infants and any child's or older person's special nutritional needs are a part of your planning. Plan for your pets as well.
  2. Store a two-week supply of water, 1 gallon of water per person per day, in clean plastic containers. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
  3. Ask your health care provider and health insurance company if you can get an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs and medical supplies, such as glucose monitoring supplies.


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