So what’s the difference between a flu “bug” circulating around your school or office and a flu epidemic? Epidemics exceed what is expected. Many people are expected to get the flu each year but if flu cases skyrocket to an unpredicted level, it’s considered an epidemic. A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease that occurs when a new virus appears in the human population, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person throughout the world. The H1N1 virus reached pandemic status in the winter of 2009-2010 and led the CDC to change flu vaccines the following season. The best thing you can do to prepare for the possibility of an epidemic or pandemic is to stay alert and informed. You can also visit the Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov for more information. Your local county health department is an excellent source of information on health issues in your community, and where to find vaccines if appropriate.
Preparing for an Epidemic:
- Make sure your Emergency Supply Kit is ready.
- Educate yourself about types of epidemics and how they may affect you.
- Follow directions from officials about sheltering-in-place or evacuating.
- Practice healthy habits that may protect you and others later: wash your hands, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home from work or school if you are sick.
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as vaccine is available each fall. Your local county health department tracks virus cases in your area and constantly informs the public on vaccine availability and shot clinics. Take advantage of the many opportunities to get flu shots each fall, as the vaccines are updated yearly to combat the most active strains.
Learn who is included in high risk groups, and the specific medical advice for each group by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Flu website, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.