Make no bones about it a flu pandemic is almost certainly on the way this winter. Very few people will escape it and many will also die. Naturally you will want to ensure that your loved ones are as safe as possible. There are many simple precautions you can take and it is important that you understand the possible consequences of neglecting to heed the warnings being issued by various medical bodies throughout the world.
You may be wondering how a flu pandemic starts. Flu viruses are constantly changing and producing new strains. A pandemic occurs when a virus develops that is so different from previous strains that very few if any people, have any immunity against it. This then allows the virus to spread widely and rapidly affecting hundreds of thousands of people. These pandemics are more serious when a human flu virus mixes with an animal flu virus, normally avian or bird flu. Scientists at present are dreading this happening because it could also mean that the virus becomes more potent.
Pandemics normally only occur every few decades. They spread rapidly to most countries and regions throughout the world. The symptoms of pandemic flu are similar to those of ordinary flu but usually are more severe. In the last century there have been three previous flu pandemics. In the years 1918 and 1919 there was a pandemic of Spanish flu. It was estimated that between 20 and 40 million people worldwide died of which 250,000 were in the UK. The interesting point is that the age groups most affected were not the elderly but instead young adults between 20 and 50 years of age.
In the years 1957 and 1958 Asian flu hit us. In this instance there were approximately 1,000,000 deaths worldwide of which 33,000 were in the UK. The age groups however affected in this pandemic were the very young and the very old.
Finally in 1968 and 1969 that was Hong Kong flu. The death toll in this outbreak was between 1 and 4 million worldwide of which 30,000 were in the UK. In this case the age group most affected was the very old as well as people with underlying medical conditions.
So as you can see, until the swine flu pandemic hits properly it is not certain how severe it will be and the age groups it will affect. Up to now it appears to have affected the younger and middle age groups.
Scientists worldwide are adamant that a swine flu pandemic is almost guaranteed this winter. It is difficult to say how serious it will be as this depends on how fast and easily the virus spreads, the age groups affected, the symptoms and the number of deaths. Pandemics often occur in two waves, several months apart and with each wave lasting 2 to 3 months. It is most certain that it will affect far more people than ordinary flu. It is important to know that the normal flu vaccine will not protect you against swine flu.
It will spread across countries in a matter of weeks and will cause higher levels of illness, intense pressure on health services, disruptions to many aspects of daily life as well as many deaths. Countries such as the UK have drawn up am Influenza Contingency Plan.
How Likely Am I To Catch Pandemic Flu?
The chances are that you are more likely to catch swine flu than ordinary flu because it will spread so rapidly as very few people will have immunity to it. Whilst everyone will be at risk some groups will be more susceptible. As every strain is different, until the virus starts spreading it is impossible to predict who these groups might be. In ordinary flu the people most likely to become seriously ill are the very young, people age 65 or older, people with existing medical conditions such as lung disease, diabetes, cancer or kidney or heart problems. People whose immunity is suppressed because of illnesses such as HIV or Aids may also have problems.
There is a vaccine ready to go and this will be used firstly for people at risk such as any of the above as well as health professionals. Anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu do work but must be given within 48 hours of the symptoms starting. It will reduce the symptoms as well as the length of illness but will not stop the virus being passed on.
To find out more about how you can protect yourself go across to our main site which is listed below and go into the swine flu section where you can find out more about how to protect yourself and your family.