DID YOU KNOW?
What Is a Worldwide Pandemic?
A pandemic is an illness that spreads easily and quickly throughout the world or a very large geographic area, such as a continent, causing economic and social chaos. Pandemics occur approximately every 30-50 years and affect up to 30 percent of the population. Avian flu is a virus that health experts fear could potentially become an influenza that spreads throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, avian flu could mutate into a form of human flu. At this time, the jump from waterfowl and domestic poultry to humans is not widespread, but the potential clearly exists.
The Pandemic of 1968
Hong Kong Flu first appeared in 1968 and is regarded as the last true pandemic. The disease spread into the United States in September 1968 and reached its height in January 1969. Deaths in the United States topped 33,000, mostly among the elderly. The 1968 Hong Kong Flu is regarded as the mildest of the 20th century pandemics. Health experts believe that a strain of Asian flu in circulation since 1957 may have offered Americans some immunity to the 1968 virus.
Human-to-Human Transmission is Rare
Pandemic has thus far not occurred with avian flu since human-to-human transmission is very rare. To date, the disease has not seen sustained human-to-human transmission and has primarily affected those who handled infected poultry. Currently, H5N1, the avian flu virus, infrequently passes between birds and humans. The Centers for Disease Control adds that frequent and very close contact with diseased birds and their secretions greatly increases the risk of infection.
If you would like to know more about avian flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/flu/avian.