Pandemic Influenza

What is Pandemic Flu?

Pandemic influenza, or flu, is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when three conditions are met:

  1. A new influenza A virus emerges and infects people.
  2. The virus causes severe illness in people.
  3. The virus spread easily from person to person.

Influenza pandemics usually spread quickly around the world, resulting in unusually high number of illnesses and deaths for two to three years. Such pandemics occurred in 1918, 1957 and 1968.

For several years, Vermont public health officials have been preparing for a pandemic situation. Now that one is upon us, we are actively working with other government agencies, communities, hospitals, health care providers, and first responders to address and respond to the complex issues and challenges the state faces during this pandemic.

Types of Flu

Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

Novel H1N1 flu is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in the U.S. in April 2009, and has spread to many countries around the world.

Bird flu is commonly used to refer to Avian flu (see below). Bird flu viruses infect birds, including chickens, other poultry and wild birds such as ducks.

Avian flu (AI) is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. Low pathogenic AI is common in birds and causes few problems. Highly pathogenic H5N1 is deadly to domestic fowl, can be transmitted from birds to humans, and is deadly to humans. There is virtually no human immunity and human vaccine availability is very limited.

Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person.

Return to Top

Pandemic Planning

There are a number of things that you can do to prepare yourself and those around you. It is important to think about the challenges that you might face, particularly if a pandemic is severe.

Go through a Planning Checklist to be sure that you plan for the impact of a flu pandemic on you, your family and your business. For more information specific to individuals, families, and your workplace, and for information directed toward schools, health care providers, community organizations and governments, see the CDC's Plan & Prepare.

There are also everyday actions people can take to stay healthy, such as frequent hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding close contact with sick people.


Interim Pre-Pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States - 2007 (pdf) (5.1 MB, 108 pgs)

This 108-page guide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives detailed strategies for using non-pharmaceutical, or community containment, measures – such as staying home when you're sick, closing schools, social distancing in the workplace, etc. – that are tied to the severity of a pandemic. This guidance will be used as Vermont government agencies and communities continue their planning for the possibility of pandemic.

Pandemic Flu in Vermont: Historical Perspective

Spanish Influenza Reaches Burlington - Burlington Free Press 09/29/1918

The Influenza Situation - Orleans County Monitor 10/09/1918

Cases numbered 28,842 - Burlington Free Press 11/09/1918

Return to Top