In terms of illness, a pandemic is an outbreak of any disease such as typhoid or influenza (the ""flu""). In contrast, an epidemic is similar but the disease affects a large number of people within a population, community, or region at the same time, whereas a pandemic is the same disease on a much larger more geographical scale.
When did the most recent flu pandemic occur?
A new strain of the influenza virus causes pandemic influenzas, which typically occur about every 30 to 40 years. The last outbreaks were: ""Spanish Flu"" in 1918-1919; ""Asian Flu"" in 1957-1958; ""Hong Kong Flu"" in 1968-1969; and ""Swine Flu"" (H1N1) in 2009-2010. Because the virus is new, humans do not have an immunity to it, and the illness is typically more severe.
What causes a flu to spread like a pandemic?
Influenza viruses come in four different subtypes: influenza A, B, C, and D. Types A and B cause the seasonal illness that almost always occurs in the winter. Type C typically causes a very mild disease, often without symptoms. Type D viruses affect cattle but are not known to infect humans. Only type A influenza causes pandemics in people. Several factors must come together for a pandemic to occur:
What effects will a pandemic have?
The 2009-2010 (Swine) flu has been estimated to have caused between 100,000 and 400,000 deaths worldwide, whereas the Spanish flu was considered ""exceptional"" and caused the highest number of known deaths (40 to 50 million) worldwide and was likely to have only been an avian virus in origin. The Asian (2 million deaths) and Hong Kong (1 million deaths) flus were milder when compared to the Spanish flu, which caused the highest number of known deaths (40 to 50 million).
How can I protect myself from the flu?
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also advises that all Canadians over the age of 6 mo wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water. For more information, see OSH Answers Hand Washing - Reducing the Risk of Common Infections. Other steps you can take for personal hygiene are listed in Good Hygiene Practices - Reducing the Spread of Infections and Viruses.
Should a company prepare for a pandemic of the flu?
The answer is yes. Employers should prepare a plan that enables regular business operations to continue when many people will be ill or absent. Estimates of how many people may be ill range from 25 to 45% (called the """"population clinical attack rates""""), and workplace absenteeism may be higher than this estimate due to caregiving responsibilities or concerns about personal safety. (From: Government of Canada, 2015. Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Planning Guidance for the Health S
What details ought to include in the business plan?
Depending on the severity of the pandemic, some workplaces may need to close or be forced to close by a Medical or Public Health Office. Other measures may be enacted by governments or recommended by public health officials, such as physical distance, hand hygiene, travel restrictions, limits to the number of people who can travel, and limits to the number of people who can be exposed.
Where can I find further details?
The following websites and telephone services are good resources for the most up-to-date information as a pandemic ""evolves"": For public information about avian influenza or pandemic influenza, call the Public Health Agency of Canada in Canada at 1-800-454-8302 or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). You can also contact your local Ministry of Health or Public Health department."""