Skip navigation

Pandemic Flu Preparedness

What to do about the Flu

Is it the Flu?

Feeling achy and tired with chills and fever, coughing with a sore throat? These are just some of the more common symptoms of the flu. The flu is caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms vary, and so does how sick it can make you. The flu can be mild or life-threatening.

Is Seasonal flu caused by the same virus that causes a pandemic flu?

The symptoms are similar, but there are differences between the two viruses. Seasonal flu is a known virus that returns every year, typically in the fall and winter months. When you’re exposed to seasonal flu you may not be affected by it. Or, you may prevent contracting seasonal flu by getting a flu shot.

Microscope image: Flu Virus

A virus that can cause a flu pandemic is a new and rapidly changing virus. Most people have no immunity or defense toward it, nor are there vaccines developed at the time of the flu outbreak. That’s why it can spread so quickly all around the world.

This virus spreads easily between persons on a much larger scale than seasonal flu, at any time of the year, in any country.

When does a flu become a pandemic?
What causes a flu virus to become a pandemic?
 

  • It is caused by a NEW virus
  • There is no immediate vaccine
  • It is a rare occurrence and unpredictable—we never know when or where it’s going to strike
  • The entire population may be at risk. When this NEW virus spreads, it can travel great distances and sicken many thousands, even millions of people very quickly, all around the world
  • Symptoms are similar to the common flu but may be much more severe

What other types of Flu are there?

There are two known types of animal flu:

  • Avian, or H5N1, from birds,
  • Swine, or H1N1, from pigs.

In rare cases humans have been infected with Avian flu. However, in 2009, the human population was affected by the global spread of H1N1, the Swine flu virus. This flu virus spread and became a pandemic flu outbreak.