Pandemic: it's not the influenza we know Iqaluit NU
Cambridge Bay, NU
Pandemic: it's not the influenza we know
(NC)-There is a big difference between seasonal influenza and an influenza pandemic.
Seasonal influenza (the flu) usually occurs in Canada from November to April each year and affects an estimated 10 to 25 per cent of the population. Most people recover within one to two weeks. Seasonal influenza can, however, kill half a million to a million people globally each year, mainly among high risk groups such as children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
An influenza pandemic, on the other hand, only occurs every 30 to 40 years and can happen in any season. It's caused by a strain of influenza to which humans have little or no immunity. This novel virus mutates and spreads rapidly through the population. Depending on the strain, anyone could be vulnerable - not just 'at risk' groups. The World Health Organization estimates that between two and seven million people worldwide will die from the next influenza pandemic.
Each year, scientists around the world develop seasonal flu vaccines based on the strains that are circling the globe. But vaccines for an influenza pandemic cannot be developed until the circulating pandemic influenza strain has been identified. From there, it could take three to six months to develop the vaccine.
Antivirals (which are not vaccines but are, rather, anti-influenza medications) are the only specific medical intervention recommended by the World Health Organization to help contain a pandemic at its source or at least slow its spread. The use of antivirals as a preventative strategy may provide time to put emergency measures in place, including developing vaccine supplies.
Many countries around the world have stockpiled antivirals to not only treat those who become ill, but also proactively prevent the spread of infection among the healthy population. Unlike the other G7 countries, Canada's pandemic plan only includes a stockpile of antivirals for treatment purposes, and does not have a supply dedicated to preventing the spread of influenza.