Public health experts warn that we are overdue for a flu pandemic. They cannot predict when this will happen, but urge everyone to take steps now to prepare. Hereís some general information about pandemic flu and what you can do to prevent, prepare for and protect yourself against it.
A pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads worldwide. This happens when a new disease appears that spreads easily from person to person.
It is difficult to get people to take the risk of a flu pandemic seriously. Most of us donít think of the flu as a dangerous infection Ė itís seasonal, we rarely catch it, but when we do many of us recover.
Yet, the flu virus changes frequently and spreads very easily. Sometimes dangerous new flu strains come along that humans have no immunity to. They can cause widespread illness, death, fear, and social and economic chaos.
A look into the past shows that flu pandemics are part of human history. They seem to happen about three to four times a century. But thereís no pattern that helps us to predict when the next one will occur or what will cause it.
Triggers can be a sudden change in the human flu virus, the mixing of animal and human strains of flu, or when an animal flu virus jumps the species barrier and infects a human. In each case, a new strain of flu can develop. If it is able to spread easily between humans, it could mark the start of a pandemic.
Canadians experienced three flu pandemics in the 20th century: the devastating 1918 outbreak followed by less severe ones in 1957 and 1968. We will face another flu pandemic. The question is: are we prepared to cope with it?