Types of Flu
There are 3 types of flu that are often confused:
- Pandemic influenza is a human flu caused by a virus.; It causes a worldwide outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness that passes easily from person to person.
- Seasonal influenza is a human virus that usually occurs in the United States between November and April. It is transmitted from human to human through coughing, sneezing, eating after someone else, or being in close physical contact with someone who is sick. Seasonal flu can be serious for some people who are at risk of complications from the illness. A yearly flu shot can help prevent this type of influenza.
- Avian influenza (or bird flu) is caused by influenza viruses that naturally occur among wild birds. The H5N1 variety of avian influenza is deadly to domestic birds such as chickens and ducks. This virus has been known to pass to humans when they are in close contact with the birds, however it has not easily been passed from human to human. Currently there is no vaccine for the H5N1 virus, and humans do not have immunity from it. This virus has the potential for being the next flu pandemic.
A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears that the public has little or no immunity for, and there is no vaccine to prevent. A vaccine cannot be developed until the virus causing the pandemic has emerged. It will take several months for a specific vaccine to be made and distributed across the county. Because there is limited immunity at best, pandemic flu is much more serious than seasonal flu. The disease spreads easily from person-to-person causing serious illness and can sweep across the country and around the world in a very short time. It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur or how severe it will be. Wherever and whenever a pandemic starts, everyone around the world is at risk.
If a severe influenza pandemic occurs, many people could become sick at the same time and would be unable to go to work. Many would stay at home to care for sick family members. Schools and businesses might close to try to prevent disease spread. Large group gatherings might be canceled. Public transportation might be scarce. These are examples of challenges that local communities, schools, civic organizations, and businesses will have to work together on to plan for a pandemic response.