Pandemic Influenza Information

The information below is regarding pandemic influenza. For information on seasonal influenza, visit KDHE’s flu webpage.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has developed the Kansas Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan calls for local, state and federal agencies, healthcare professionals, and the private sector to work together in a coordinated effort to maintain essential public services, preserve community health and protect the health and safety of Kansans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Pandemic Influenza Plan provides a blueprint for preparing for the challenges that lie ahead for the state and the nation.

For additional information on pandemic influenza, read the FAQs below, visit CDC’s pandemic influenza webpage, or visit the CDC’s pandemic planning & preparedness webpage

What is pandemic influenza?

Pandemic influenza is a worldwide outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus to which people have little or no immunity appears in humans then spreads easily from person to person. The symptoms of such a virus would probably be similar to those of seasonal influenza, but the duration and/or severity of the symptoms might be different.
The virus would spread the same way as a seasonal influenza virus. The prevention and treatment measures for such a virus would also be the same as for seasonal influenza. The H5N1 "bird flu" is one virus that could potentially cause a pandemic. Any one of several other new or unusual strains of influenza could also cause a pandemic.
Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe during the 20th century causing millions of deaths. No one knows when the next pandemic may strike or which variation of the influenza virus it will be. Efforts are underway to combat the serious impact a pandemic could have on Kansans. To learn more, check out the various resources available through this Web page.

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How are pandemic, avian and seasonal flu different?

Pandemic Flu: Pandemic influenza is a worldwide outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus to which people have little or no immunity appears in humans then spreads easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu or influenza.
Avian Flu: Avian or "bird flu" is caused by avian influenza viruses, which occur naturally among birds.
Seasonal Flu: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In Kansas, the peak of the season is generally January or February. Vaccinations are available for seasonal flu in the fall of each year.
What´s the difference between seasonal and pandemic influenza?

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When is the next flu pandemic expected?

Three major influenza pandemics swept the globe during the 20th century causing millions of deaths. No one knows when the next pandemic may strike or which variation of the influenza virus it will be, but many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the next one occurs. Experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 Avian (bird) Flu situation in the Middle East, Europe and Asia very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily and widely from person to person.

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What risks do Kansans face from an influenza pandemic?

If a new and severe strain of influenza were to begin spreading around the world, Kansas would not be spared from its impact. The severity of the next pandemic cannot be predicted, but modeling studies suggest that its effect in the United States would be severe. In the absence of any control measures (vaccinations or antivirals), it has been estimated that a medium-level pandemic in the U.S. could cause:

  • 89,000 to 207,000 deaths
  • 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations
  • 18 to 42 million outpatient visits to healthcare facilities
  • 20 to 47 million people becoming sick
  • An economic impact ranging between $71.3 and $166.5 billion

In Kansas, estimates of impact of pandemic influenza include:

  • 2,500 deaths
  • 5,000 hospitalizations
  • 500,000 outpatient visits
  • 1 million may become ill

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Does a flu shot protect against pandemic flu?

Current flu vaccines will not protect against a new pandemic strain of flu virus. Because it takes several months to develop and distribute vaccine for a new strain, a vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic. If a pandemic occurs, it is expected that the U.S. government will work with many partner groups to make recommendations to guide the early use of vaccine.

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Are there any other treatments for pandemic flu?

Antiviral medications can be used to treat and/or prevent influenza A viruses. However, flu strains can become resistant to antiviral medications. For example, only one antiviral medication works against the H5N1 Avian Flu virus identified in human patients in Asia in 2004 and 2005. The supply of this antiviral medication is very limited worldwide, and no pharmaceutical company in the United States manufactures it.

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What should I be doing to protect my family and me?

Protect yourself against the spread of the flu and other germs and viruses:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Keep children home from school when they are sick
  • Visit for more information.

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How can Kansans prepare for pandemic influenza?

When preparing for a possible emergency situation such as pandemic influenza, it is important to consider the basics of survival, including fresh drinking water, food, clean air and warmth. Since it may be necessary to protect yourself and others from being infected with the virus, you may have to remain in your home for several days. The checklist below contains item that will be important to your survival and comfort if you cannot leave your home and people cannot enter.

Food and water – Be sure to have at least one gallon of water per person per day along with dried or canned food to last at least three days. Grocery stores may not have sufficient supplies or healthy staff to remain open. Remember baby formula and diapers if you have an infant.

Medications, First Aid kit and equipment – If you or anyone in your family must take medications, be sure to have an adequate supply on hand. Keep a First Aid kit stocked with necessary materials and a basic tool kit.

Blankets and clothing – Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets and extra clothing for all family members on hand in case of disruptions in electrical power or other utilities.

Mouth and nose protection – Face masks should be available for each member of the family to prevent the spread of disease. A mask made of dense-weave cotton material that fits snugly over the face and mouth is best. Take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the best fit for children. There are a variety of masks available for sale in hardware stores.

Phone – Make sure you have at least one standard, hard-wired telephone since cordless phones will not work during a disruption in electrical power. Keep a contact list of important phone numbers in your emergency preparedness kit.

Battery-powered radio with extra batteries – Information from federal, state and local authorities will be relayed through the media. A radio will be your vital link to this information.

Flashlight with extra batteries – Stores are now selling flashlights with self-contained kinetic generators. One of these will come in handy if you run out of fresh batteries.

Items for personal comfort – Toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and paste, facial and bathroom tissue will be important to make your time at home more comfortable. Be sure to include items for children such as games, coloring books and other activities.

Large trash bags and ties – Keep a supply on hand to safely store trash and garbage since refuse service may be disrupted or postponed for several days.

Pets – If you have pets, make sure they have current vaccinations and ID tags on their collars. Make sure you have plenty of food, water and litter for them.

Emergency Preparedness Plan – Take the time to prepare a family emergency plan. Be sure to record medical histories, medication lists, and the weights of all children less than 90 pounds. Establish a family contact list of who to contact in an emergency. Don´t forget to check on your neighbors or relatives, especially those who are seniors.

School District (K-12) Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist (.pdf)

Kansas ESF 8 (Health and Medical) Network