For most people, influenza or flu causes high fever, coughing, headaches, and severe aches and pains. Flu can escalate and develop into life-threatening complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure. Each year scientists predict which strains of the flu virus are likely to affect which areas of the world. Vaccines are developed and then distributed annually to help build immunity against the virus strains and prevent people from getting sick.
A flu pandemic can occur when a new strain of the flu virus emerges, and a given population has little or no immunity against it. If the virus spreads throughout a given population and then spreads across national or geographical boundaries, it becomes a global threat—it becomes a flu pandemic.
Flu pandemics have happened four times before in recent history—in 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009. Governments, organizations, doctors, and scientists are working hard to prepare for the next pandemic.
Health systems must be prepared for future pandemics before the pandemics occur. Antibiotics can treat the flu, and health systems must be able to distribute and administer treatment effectively. Pandemic preparedness plans are developed and implemented to reduce the impact of future pandemics.
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