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What is influenza?
Influenza is often referred to as “the flu”. It is a respiratory disease caused by a virus and affects the lungs. Symptoms may include fever, cough, headache, muscle ache, weakness, sore throat, and cold-like symptoms. It’s the complications arising from the flu, such as pneumonia, heart or kidney failure, that may be deadly.
What is a pandemic influenza?
A pandemic influenza occurs when a large number of people become ill with the influenza virus throughout the world. A pandemic is a global outbreak affecting many people in many countries. Unlike the usual influenza virus that infects people each winter, a pandemic influenza may strike at anytime of the year causing much more sickness and death.
When will it happen?
No one knows when the next pandemic influenza will be; however, the experts agree that it is inevitable and unpredictable. There is a range of 11 to 39 years between pandemics. The world is due for another one.
What is the history of pandemic influenza?
Looking back in history, there were 3-4 pandemics each century since the 1500s. During the 20th century there was the Spanish flu in 1918-19 responsible for more than 20 million deaths. In 1957 there was the Asian flu and in 1968-69 there was the Hong Kong flu. A second wave of illness often occurs 3-9 months following the initial pandemic. A third wave may also occur.
What would the impact be in Grey & Bruce counties?
It is estimated that:
Hospitals and emergency rooms will be severely overburdened. Emergency responders, such as police, fire and paramedics, will be overwhelmed.
A pandemic is different from other emergencies because other counties, provinces and countries will also be simultaneously strained. It will be a challenge to provide medical care with a reduced workforce and few outside resources. It is estimated that one third of the workforce will be ill and unable to work. There will be shortages of vaccine, antiviral drugs and hospital beds. The societal impact will be devastating.
Will there be a vaccine?
Because of the new strain of influenza causing a pandemic, it will be unlikely that a vaccine will be available initially. It takes 6-7 months to produce a vaccine and because of the worldwide demand, the pandemic flu vaccine may be in short supply. It will be a priority to make vaccine available and distribute it as quickly as possible.
How can I prepare for a pandemic influenza?
Work is occurring at the federal and provincial levels. The Grey Bruce Health Unit is working with local hospitals, emergency services, municipalities, media representatives, and community agencies in developing a Pandemic Influenza Contingency Plan. The principal roles of Public Health are surveillance, coordinating vaccines and antivirals and communicating information to health care providers and the community. Public Health also has a responsibility to support local efforts to respond to and manage the event. Each municipality, hospital and community agency is responsible for developing an appendix on pandemic influenza to add to their emergency plan. The goal of the plan is to reduce influenza illness, death and societal disruption among people of Grey & Bruce counties.
What can I do before a pandemic strikes?
What can I do during an influenza pandemic?
For more information please contact Public Health at 519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 or visit us on the web at www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.
We work with the Grey Bruce community to protect and promote health