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PH Logo Influenza Pandemics


photo:  1918 Influenza Pandemic
What is an influenza (flu) pandemic?
Pandemics occur when a disease spreads across several countries and affects many people.  For a disease to be considered pandemic it must be easily spread from person to person, cause serious illness, and the population has little or no immunity to it.  An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of a new flu virus that causes more illness and death than the seasonal flu.  
fact sheet (pdf) | brochure insert (pdf) | WHO | DHS | MDH

Has there even been an influenza pandemic?
Disease pandemics have happened thought human history.  Influenza pandemics develop naturally and have occurred three times in the past 100 years including the "Spanish Flu" of 1918, the "Asian Flu" of 1956 and the "Hong Kong Flu" of 1968. Pandemic Flu History 

Are you interested in learning more about The Great Influenza of 1918-1919?  Check out Ramsey County Library's Book Club in a Bag to get 10 copies of the book, details about the author, discussion questions and bookmarks.


How does the flu spread from person to person?
All types of flu spread through "droplet transmission" which means the flu virus can travel in sneezes, and can be found on all surfaces – like doorknobs and keyboards – that may have been touched by sick people.  Stop the spread of the flu by washing your hands with soap and water, covering your cough, and staying home if you are sick.  In the event of an influenza pandemic,  people may be asked to practice "social distancing."  Methods of social distancing may include: staying at home for an extended period of time, avoiding crowds, not taking public transportation, and limiting trips to stores. 

Healthy Habits (pdf) | Hand Hygiene


Would there be a vaccine available?
The type of flu that will cause an influenza pandemic cannot be predicted, therefore there is no reliable way to develop a vaccine that will protect people.  Once the flu strain is identified, scientists will develop a vaccine as quickly as possible. 

How could a influenza pandemic affect my community?
An influenza pandemic could cause severe illness and death, interrupting normal daily activities at work, home, and in schools.  Churches and schools may be closed during times of illness in your community. There will be intense pressure on government and medical services to stop the spread of disease. Hospitals and clinics may only be able to provide care to the most seriously ill, so many sick people will need to be cared for at home.  We don't know how many communities and individuals will be affected by an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

What is Saint Paul - Ramsey County Department of Public Health doing to prepare?

  • training health care volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps
  • meeting with community groups to educate on public health preparedness 
  • developing educational materials and community toolkits
  • practicing mass dispensing of available medicine or vaccine
  • staff training
  • developing partnerships with community organizations, private health care providers, and public safety officials
  • establishing agreements with Red Cross to provide shelters

If there is an influenza pandemic how will I know what to do?
Access our website for current information in English and Emergency and Community Health Outreach (ECHO) for information in other languages.  Health Emergency Information | ECHO

What can I do to prepare?
In the event of an influenza pandemic, you may be asked to stay home for a few weeks.  Gather and store two weeks of food, water, and personal care items for you and your family.  Update emergency contact cards with recent medical information. 

Become trained so you can help your community respond to a health crisis. | Medical Reserve Corps 

 Return to Health Emergency Information