A pandemic, by definition, is an epidemic (sudden outbreak of disease) which spreads rapidly over a wide geographic area, affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population: a global disease outbreak.
As with other naturally occurring situations such as hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes, planning and preparedness is critical. Because of the potential scope of such events, individual and local plans are key to maintaining the public health. Bridgewater State University has a Pandemic Planning Committee which meets regularly to discuss a range of issues and develop protective measures for the university campus and community. A letter to the Bridgewater State University community is available.
The history of epidemiology, especially regarding the Spanish flu of 1918, informs us of the cyclic nature of epidemics and pandemics, as well of the types of infectious agents that might be most lethal. Currently, there is global concern regarding a strain of influenza A virus occurring, thus far, in the Middle East called high pathogenicity avian influenza, HPAI. Predominantly a bird virus, it has caused some human death as a result of direct contact with diseased birds. The scientific community continues to struggle to ascertain and anticipate genetic change in this virus that might lead to efficient human-to-human transmission.
Whether the potential pandemic is this virus or some infectious agent of the future, it is our responsibility to prepare our ourselves, families, and communities. A pandemic with prolonged and widespread outbreaks could require temporary changes in many areas of society, such as schools, work, transportation, and other public services. Stocking up on food, water, supplies and medications at home is the beginning to this pandemic planning process. A checklist for individuals can be found at this site.
Ways to be prepared:
Last Modified: April 20, 2012