A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads rapidly around the world with high rates of illness. Although people are exposed to different strains of the flu virus every year, history has shown that several times each century entirely new flu strains develop. Because no one has had a chance to develop immunity to the new flu strain, it can spread rapidly and widely. If the changed virus easily spreads from person to person, a pandemic can occur.
Pandemics are different from seasonal flu outbreaks. Small changes in influenza viruses that people have already been exposed to cause seasonal flu outbreaks. A new flu vaccine is developed each year to protect people against the expected changes in existing viruses. That is why annual flu shots are needed and are effective. However, since an influenza pandemic is caused by an entirely new strain of flu virus, preparing a vaccine in advance is not as simple as it is for seasonal flu.
New York State, the state's local health departments and the federal government have been planning for the possibility of an influenza pandemic over the past several years. The New York State Department of Health has developed an influenza pandemic plan and since the outbreak of the novel H1N1 influenza in April 2009, information and guidance have been updated.
Pandemic Influenza Plan
- 2008 Pandemic Influenza Plan
- Allocation of Ventilators in an Influenza Pandemic
- Aware Prepare: Knowledge is Power - New York State Office of Homeland Security
- Pandemic Flu Action Kit for Schools (PDF, 4.82MB 67pg.)
- Planning and Prepardeness Packet for Colleges and Universites (PDF, 1.5MB 30pg.)
- Pandemic Influenza Plan Briefing (PDF, 59KB, 11pg.)
Learn more about influenza pandemics:
- Pandemic Influenza Frequently Asked Questions
- Community Engagement Meetings on Pandemic Influenza - Final Report (PDF, 917KB, 49pg.)
- Community Engagement Meetings on Pandemic Influenza - Follow Up Material (PDF, 39KB, 5pg.)
- Flu.gov - The official U.S. government Web site for information on novel H1N1 flu (swine flu), seasonal flu and influenza pandemics.
- What You Should Know about Using Facemasks and Respirators during a Flu Pandemic - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Miracles Drugs: Soap. Protect yourself from the flu. Wash your hand often. (poster)
- Cover & Cough. Preventing the spread of flu is in your own
- The last person to use this had the flu. Wash your hands - Toilet Handle (poster)
- This is how germs spread… It's sickening! (flyer)
- French (PDF, 1.5MB)