Pandemic influenza – overview

What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is the worldwide outbreak of a specific disease to which people have little or no immunity.

Various strains of influenza A and B viruses circulate throughout the world each year, causing “seasonal influenza” (usually  October to April in Alberta). The influenza virus often changes slightly. Most people who have had influenza will have some protection against the changed virus.

However, 3–4 times each century the influenza A virus changes dramatically. People do not have any protection against it and the virus can spread rapidly around the world causing more serious illness and death than seasonal influenza. The high rates of illness can also affect how communities function and the economy.

In 2009, an influenza pandemic was caused by a new H1N1 virus. The virus began causing illness in Mexico in March 2009 and it reached Canada at the end of April; it had spread worldwide by June.

Alberta's pandemic plan

Pandemic Influenza logo Alberta has a response plan for pandemic influenza. Alberta’s response plan is used in conjunction with municipal plans, Alberta Health Services’ plans, and the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector. It is prepared in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial governments.

Alberta’s plan for pandemic influenza is being reviewed and updated to incorporate both the planning that was completed and the lessons learnt during the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 response.

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