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Durham Region Pandemic Influenza Planning

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness caused by an influenza A or an influenza B virus. A pandemic is an outbreak that occurs worldwide, affecting a large number of people. A pandemic influenza happens when a new type of influenza virus develops that humans have no immunity against. All previous pandemic influenzas were caused by the influenza A viruses.

There have been three pandemics in the last century with the most severe being the 1918-19 Spanish Flu where 20 to 40 million deaths occurred worldwide. The other pandemics were less serious than the Spanish Flu, but still caused significant illness and deaths.

With the spread of the avian influenza virus H5N1 through Asian, African and European countries, the possibility for a pandemic to happen has increased. Many experts believe that a pandemic is certain to happen, but when it will happen is not known.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health agencies, including Health Canada, have recommended the development of pandemic plans to help reduce the impact of the next pandemic on the world’s population.

Durham Region Health Department (DRHD) developed its first Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Region in 2002. This plan aims to ensure that Durham Region is prepared to effectively respond to an influenza pandemic in the Region. The objectives of the plan are to reduce sickness and death from influenza illness, to cope with large numbers of ill people, to maintain essential services, and to provide timely, authoritative information to professionals, the public and the media. The plan outlines the coordinated actions to be taken for the protection of the life and health of the residents of the Region in the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak. The plan was revised for 2006 and was designed to meet the needs of the community and reflect information outlined in plans that had been developed by PHAC and the MOHLTC. The Health Department’s Pandemic Influenza Plan guided its pH1N1 response and was adapted to reflect the experience and understanding of pH1N1 worldwide as well as within the Region. A Departmental pH1N1 (Swine) Flu Committee was struck to oversee the Health Department’s pandemic response.

Overall, the H1N1 pandemic raised awareness of pandemic influenza, highlighting the importance of planning and preparing for a pandemic and the need to continually review and revise the Health Department’s Pandemic Influenza Plan. The successes and challenges of the Health Department’s pandemic response, which are outlined in the Pandemic H1N1 Influenza in Durham Region Summary Report, October 2010, will contribute to the revisions of the pandemic plan.

Durham Region Pandemic Influenza Information

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