Influenza pandemics occur when a novel influenza virus emerges against which the vast majority of the world’s population has no immunity. Pandemics, on the other hand, happen once every few decades on average. They occur when a new subtype of influenza A arises that has either never circulated in the human population or has not circulated for a very long time (so that most people do not have immunity against the virus). The new subtype often causes serious illness and death, even among healthy individuals, and can spread easily through the human population. Yet despite the legacy of the 1918 “Spanish flu,” estimated to have killed at least 20 million people and the additional deaths, social disruption, and economic losses that resulted from pandemics in 1957 and 1968, the general public appears relatively unconcerned about the next “killer flu.” Depending on its severity, an influenza pandemic could result in 200,000 to 2 million deaths in the United States alone.
- Public health emergency preparedness
- Seasonal versus Pandemic flu
- Implications and Ethical Preparedness for Pandemic Influenza