5 things we’ve learned from previous flu pandemics

Influenza pandemics aren’t new’and they’ve taught us a lot

5 things we've learned from previous flu pandemics

‘ Influenza pandemics have occurred repeatedly over the centuries.

‘ There were three pandemics in the 20th century. The first one was especially devastating, and the other two were much milder.

‘ In 1976, a pandemic was predicted, and a mass immunization campaign was undertaken in the United States to respond to this risk. The feared pandemic did not occur.

‘ SARS gave the world a recent taste of a global infectious disease outbreak. The rapid containment of SARS was an international public health success but does not guarantee a similar degree of success with an influenza pandemic.

Some lessons from the influenza pandemics of the 20th century:

1. Pandemics often give some warning before doing their worst damage.
2. Pandemics tend to feature a ‘signature age shift,’ meaning that younger adults become seriously ill and die in greater proportion than in seasonal influenza epidemics.
3. Pandemics tend to feature a rapid surge in the number of ill people.
4. The pandemics of the 20th century have given us knowledge and insight to be able to respond more meaningfully to future pandemics.
5. Honest and clear communication is the cornerstone of an effective response to a pandemic.

Excerpted from The Flu Pandemic and You Copyright © 2006 by Vincent Lam, M.D. Colin Lee, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Canada. All rights reserved.