A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a specific disease to which people have little or no immunity.
An influenza pandemic occurs when a radical change takes place in an influenza virus causing a new strain against which people have little or no immunity. If this new strain has the ability to spread easily from person to person, many people around the world will become ill and possibly die.
Human influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Influenza will circulate every year and causes mild to severe illness in outbreaks. Influenza pandemics occur approximately two or three times per century when a new influenza virus is created to which humans have no immunity. This results in widespread disease, increased hospitalization and high mortality.
No. The annual influenza vaccine includes the influenza strains expected to be in circulation during that year's flu season. While annual immunization is the most effective way to avoid getting seasonal flu, it will not provide protection from a new influenza strain that emerges and results in a pandemic.
The influenza virus spreads through droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who has the flu. You can get the flu by breathing in these droplets through your nose or mouth, or by the droplets landing directly on your eyes. You can also contract the virus by shaking hands with infected people or by touching contaminated surfaces then transferring the viruses to your own eyes, nose or mouth.
Influenza symptoms typically include the rapid onset of fever, headache, chills, cough, muscle aches, fatigue, watery eyes and a sore throat. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children.