Pandemic Flu

A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a disease, with outbreaks or epidemics occurring in many countries and in most regions of the world.

A pandemic of influenza results when a new influenza virus emerges which is markedly different from recently circulating strains. A pandemic can occur in any year and at any time of year and is unlike ordinary seasonal flu that occurs every winter in the UK

A pandemic is able to:

  • Infect people (rather than, or in addition to, other mammals or birds)
  • Spread readily from person to person
  • Cause illness in a high proportion of the people infected; and
  • Spread widely, because most people will have little or no immunity to the new virus and will be susceptible to infection (they will not previously have been exposed to it).

Evidence from previous pandemics suggests that on average one person will infect about two others, and that flu spreads particularly rapidly in closed communities such as schools or residential homes.

People are most infectious soon after they develop symptoms, although they can spread the virus for up to five days after the start of symptoms.

It is spread in the same way as the common cold and other flu viruses. The virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone coughs or sneezes.These droplets typically spread on surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 24 hours.Anyone who touches these surfaces can spread the virus by getting it on their hands and then placing their hands near their own nose/mouth or transmitting to others. Everyday items at home and in public places may have traces of the virus, including door handles, remote controls, hand rails and computer keyboards.

Everyone can play their part in helping to reduce the spread of pandemic flu:

Good hygiene practice

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • clean surfaces regularly to get rid of the virus
  • use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • place used tissues in a bin as soon as possible

If you have flu symptoms

Do not go into work; call your manager. If you become ill at work, inform your manager and go home.

If your children show flu symptoms keep them at home.

Take care and rest

Take medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetemol to relieve the symptoms (following the instructions with the medicines).Children under 16 must not be given aspirin or ready-made flu remedies containing aspirin.
Drink plenty of fluids.

Useful Information & Links

ECDC Pandemic flu page
Department of Health – policy document “Responding to a UK flu pandemic
Public Health England