H5n1 Avian Flu Pandemic

Throughout history, several different influenza pandemics have wiped out large populations. Recently, the threat of an avian flu pandemic has many people around the world worried. While an influenza pandemic has not yet occurred, the possibility is very real if the virus mutates to the point that it can spread easily between humans.

What is a Pandemic?

Put simply, a “pandemic” is an infectious epidemic of disease that spreads across an entire population (sometimes, a pandemic can occur worldwide, though a nationwide pandemic is also possible). Pandemics are of concern to researchers because they often spread rapidly and are very difficult to contain and treat.

Since any type of virus can mutate easily, health specialists are concerned that the current strain of the bird flu may morph into a strain that is contagious between humans and is not containable. If this does happen, an avian flu pandemic is possible.

What to Do If An Avian Flu Pandemic Occurs

While it may be difficult to stop a pandemic from occurring, there are a couple of things that the general population can do if an avian flu pandemic occurs. In the case of any pandemic, avian flu included, the first step is to seek any available vaccine.

Some governments, including in the United States, have access to avian flu vaccines that can be administered in the case of a pandemic. If a vaccine is not made available in a country, there are some other steps that can be taken in order to avoid contracting the bird flu.

The following actions may help prevent the spread of the avian flu if a pandemic occurs:

  • Avoid contact with large groups of people
  • Cover your nose or mouth while coughing or sneezing
  • Isolate those who have contracted the flu
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly
  • Wear a fitted facemask while in public.

While these steps aren’t currently able to totally prevent avian flu, should a pandemic strain begin to spread, these steps may help you stay healthy.

In the case of any pandemic, public activities — such as school, work and other social engagements — will likely be monitored by your government’s health agencies. If a pandemic situation is determined to be extremely serious, some social activities may be forbidden.

Even though the avian flu has not reached a pandemic level, it is a good idea to wash hands thoroughly and cover one’s mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing. Basic practices such as these may help prevent a pandemic from occurring.

Resources

Block, M. and Seigel, S. (2005). Q and A: Preparing for a flu pandemic. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the NPR Web site: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4969363.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Staff. (2010). Key facts about avian influenza (bird flu) and avian influenza A (H5N1) virus. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the CDC Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm.

World Health Organization (WHO) Staff. (2005). Avian influenza frequently asked questions. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the WHO Web site: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/avian_faqs/en/.