Pandemic Flu factsheet

  • Pandemic flu is flu that spreads rapidly to affect almost all countries and regions of the world 
  • Flu pandemics occur when a new strain of influenza virus appears, to which most people have no immunity 
  • Flu pandemics generally affect more people, cause more severe illness and result in much more serious disruption to society than the ‘ordinary’ flu we see in the UK each winter
  • People of all age groups may be at risk of severe infection with pandemic flu, not just the usual ‘at risk’ groups 
  • Flu pandemics have occurred every few decades. There were three flu pandemics in the last century 
  • No one knows for sure when the next pandemic will be. Intervals between previous pandemics have varied with no recognisable pattern. Also, a pandemic may not follow the usual seasonal pattern of ‘ordinary’ flu and could occur at any time of the year 
  • The overall goals of the pandemic contingency plan are to:
    • minimise serious illness and save lives,
    • maintain continuity of essential services, and
    • minimise societal disruption and economic loss as a result of an influenza pandemic

Source: Department of Health