A pandemic is an infectious disease that spreads worldwide, with outbreaks or epidemics occurring in many countries and in most regions of the world.
A pandemic occurs when a new virus or new virus strain emerges which is markedly different from previously circulating strains and is able to:
- infect people (rather than, or in addition to, other mammals or birds);
- spread from person to person;
- cause illness in a high proportion of the people infected; and
- spread widely, because most people will have little or no immunity to the new virus/strain and will be susceptible to infection as (they will not previously have been exposed to it or a similar strain of virus, and any previous vaccinations will not have provided antibodies to protect against the strain)
A pandemic can be an outbreak of influenza (flu) but unlike a normal flu virus, which has a 'season' (October to May), a flu pandemic can occur at any time. The outbreak may last about three months with further outbreaks coming in waves, weeks, or months after the initial onset.
Based on previous pandemic evidence, at least 20% of the population is likely to get the virus during an outbreak. Such numbers could seriously affect the ability of health, emergency services, and business to cope with those who are absent because they are ill, voluntarily quarantined or looking after family members who are ill. A virus is mainly spread by droplet infection produced when an infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes; it may also be spread by hand or face contact after touching a droplet-contaminated person or surface.
For more information on influenza see the NHS Choices website.
Like other local, regional, and national organisations BLRF considers there is still a risk of further a pandemic or epidemic even following the Covid pandemic. We have developed a plan which outlines the contingency arrangements for our Category 1 and 2 Responders to prepare for, respond to and manage the recovery from a pandemic.
The difference between human flu and avian flu
Avian flu is primarily a flu infection in birds, presenting a risk to wild birds and poultry livestock. This should not be confused with human flu pandemics, which affect our health. They present two different risks that the Community Risk Register categorises as 'Animal Health' for avian flu and 'Human Health' for human flu.
For more details on avian influenza, visit the DEFRA website.