3/14/2006

Flu Epidemic vs Pandemic

Hear that coughing and sneezing - that means it's flu season. Numbers of suffers seem to be down this year, but infections are tracked by date, place, and age with weekly updates. Then we hear about a pandemic and the bird flu and wonder what it all means. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has some explanations.

An epidemic is an outbreak of a disease, like the seasonal flu, in a limited area, such as a city or state. A pandemic is not seasonal and occurs when a new flu virus rapidly spreads beyond the borders of several countries. The biggest pandemic of influenza was in 1918 when at least 500,000 Americans died and millions worldwide. The avian influenza or bird flu is an influenza strain that infects birds and occurs naturally, especially in wild waterfowl like ducks and geese. A small number of high pathogenic avian flu infections have been reported in humans and many have died. People can be infected from contact with infected birds or their droppings. Colorado has tested birds for avian flu since 2004 and no birds have tested positive.

The state of Colorado has a plan in progress to provide a guide to the state's response to an influenza pandemic called the Colorado Pandemic Influenza Index to CDPHE Internal Emergency Response Implementation Plan . The Plan describes the basic strategies of disease monitoring, vaccine and medication delivery, communications, and emergency management activities. Also, on the morning of March 24, 2006 at the Colorado Convention Center there will be the "Colorado's Pandemic Readiness and Emergency Planning Conference". It is free and open to the public.

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