What’s the difference between an influenza pandemic and a seasonal outbreak of influenza?
An Influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, infecting a large proportion of the human population. Because people have little or no immunity to the new virus, and there is no immediate vaccine, influenza pandemics often result in significant numbers of deaths and involve massive social and economic disruption.
“Seasonal’ influenza outbreaks are caused by small changes in the common influenza viruses. Even though these viruses may change slightly from one flu season to another, people usually have some immunity built up from previous exposure. An annual seasonal flu vaccine can reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others.
Key Points to Remember
- Everyone is at risk of infection
- Influenza is caused by a virus so antibiotics cannot be used to treat it
- Influenza is highly contagious spreading rapidly from person to person in tiny droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. People can also become infected by touching something that was recently contaminated with the virus and then touching their mouth or nose
- Influenza can be more serious in babies and young children, pregnant women, older adults with chronic medical conditions, people with a disability and indigenous Australians
- If you do have influenza avoid contact with others to prevent it spreading
How can I help prevent the spread of influenza pandemic?
- If you are unwell, remain at home and don’t go to work or school or attend other public or crowded gatherings
- Try and avoid close contact with sick people
- Good hygiene habits, such as regular hand washing with soap and water and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing are important
- Don’t share personal items
- Clean surfaces. Influenza viruses can live on surfaces for several hours. If a member of your household has influenza you should regularly clean surfaces such as tables, benches, refrigerator doors and door knobs with soap and water or detergent.
Where can I find further information?