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Pandemic Influenza Information

What is Pandemic Influenza?

Influenza commonly called "the flu". Every year there is a period when seasonal flu is active. An outbreak on a world-wide scale of a new strain of influenza, which is capable of causing serious illness, is called a pandemic. There have been three pandemics in the last century, with the worst being the 1918-19 Spanish flu that caused over 20 million deaths world wide.

How is it spread?

Flu is spread from person to person through coughing and/or sneezing. It will also spread through contact with contaminated hands, surfaces and objects. In a pandemic, people will likely have no immunity to the new flu virus and it will spread quickly.

What could be the effects of a pandemic?

Depending on how widespread and severe the pandemic influenza is, daily routines could be disrupted. For example, companies may have to cancel and delay some operations, municipalities may suspend non-essential services and public health may limit various public gatherings such as sports events and schools may be closed. It cannot be predicted how Durham Region will be affected until the exact nature of the new virus is known.

Is there a vaccine available?

A vaccine to a new virus can be developed but it will take time and may not be immediately available. It could take 4 – 6 months for an effective vaccine to be produced. Canada has arrangements in place to produce enough vaccine and administer it to protect all Canadians as quickly as possible.

What are governments doing about it?

The Federal, Provincial, Durham Region and local municipal governments, as well as the health care community, are working on plans to respond to any pandemic outbreak.

In Durham Region, the Health Department will be the lead and the Medical Officer of Health has the overall responsibility for directing the public health response. Close coordination is maintained with hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The role of other Regional Departments and local municipalities is to maintain essential services to the public and to support the Health Department in the response to the pandemic.

What can my company or business do?

Every company and business should have a Business Continuity Plan developed to enable continued operations given a potential high rate of absenteeism due to sickness. It is expected that there will be more than one wave of illness several months apart.

What can I do now to protect my family and myself?

Start good practices now by:

  • Getting an annual flu shot (to protect against seasonal influenza viruses).
  • Practicing good hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.
  • Staying home if ill and limiting close contact with family members.
  • Seek medical attention if severe.

Where can I go for more detailed information?

Go to the following links:

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