Pandemic ” Flu epidemic ” was one of the buzzwords of late 2005. So how is the expression in everybody’s mouth different from the other old disease term “epidemic”?
It seems like a lot of people aren’t sure. Merriam-Webster reported that the word “epidemic” was the seventh most frequently searched online dictionary this year. Definition: “occurring in a wide geographic area and affecting an extremely high proportion of the population.”
This “epidemic” is almost the same as the dictionary definition for and does not explain much when it comes to influenza – aka flu .
A flu pandemic is different from the horrible epidemic that scientists and world health officials fear. We can see a seasonal flu epidemic throughout any year . Actually, he just had it.
The flu reached epidemic levels in the US for 10 consecutive weeks in the 2004-2005 season. Records held by the CDC show that during the week ending March 5, 2005, 8.9 % of all deaths reported in 122 US cities were attributed to flu and pneumonia (a common complication of the flu).
The CDC’s definition of the flu outbreak is related to the percentage of deaths from flu and pneumonia in a given week. The “epidemic threshold” is a certain percentage of what is considered normal for that period. The normal level or baseline is determined statistically based on data from past flu seasons.
CDC spokesperson Christine Pearson warns that the definition of the flu epidemic does not apply to other diseases.
Seasonal flu outbreaks can make millions sick, but those who die are typically a small number of the elderly, very young children, and people with compromised immune systems. This is not the case with the worst flu epidemics.
There are two main characteristics of an influenza pandemic. First, the virus is a new strain that has never infected humans before. Second, on a global scale. Sometimes it is unusually deadly.
“A pandemic is basically a global epidemic – an epidemic that spreads across multiple continents,” says Dan Epstein, spokesperson for the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO regional office.
Flu outbreaks have occurred about three times every century, or roughly every 10-50 years, since the 1500s. There was one in 1957-1958 and in 1968-1969. But the most notorious pandemic flu of the 20th century was the 1918-1919 flu. An estimated 40 million people died in less than a year, and what makes it so different from seasonal flu epidemics is that it killed young people between the ages of 20 and 45.
The world is closely watching a virus known as avian flu H5N1 or ” bird flu “. Do not confuse this with epidemic flu. Not one. At least not yet.
At this point, it is known that people caught the virus from sick poultry and the virus is very deadly for infected people. Scientists worry that at some point the H5N1 virus will evolve into a form that can be passed from person to person in a way that it currently cannot.
“If it adapts to a species that is contagious among humans, it will no longer be an avian virus,” Epstein told WebMD. It will be a human flu virus, ”he said.
Later, if this hypothetical strain can easily be passed between people, an epidemic can become flu.
“It’s impossible to predict whether this virus will mutate enough to be easily passed from person to person,” Pearson told WebMD.
Another flu pandemic is almost certain. But a completely different virus could cause the next pandemic. It does not have to evolve from H5N1.
The CDC keeps track of the influenza strains that circulate widely in the US each year. In the 2004-2005 flu season, the dominant species were influenza type A (H3N2) and influenza type B viruses. Type A ( H1N1 ), a version of the virus responsible for the 1918 epidemic, also circulated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) continuously monitors influenza cases worldwide, based on information from a wide network of resources, including government health agencies, university scientists, and international aid organizations.
WHO has developed a system that determines where the world stands in terms of the flu epidemic. The system has six stages:
The world waits, watches and tries to prepare.
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