An influenza pandemic occurs when a highly infectious new strain emerges for which humans have little or no immunity.
During a pandemic, the virus spreads rapidly around the world, which can cause high rates of illness and death, and result in severe social and economic disruption. History has shown that pandemics tend to occur every 10-50 years.
There are international, national and state planning mechanisms to prepare for influenza pandemics and deal with them when they emerge.
Pandemic influenza plans
World Health Organization (WHO) - Pandemic Influenza Risk
The World Health Organization (WHO) has revised the approach to global phases in response to lessons learnt from the influenza A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic.
Australian health management plan for pandemic influenza
The Australian health management plan for pandemic influenza (AHMPPI) outlines Australia’s strategy to manage an influenza pandemic and minimise its impact on the health of Australians and our health system. The plan outlines the measures that the health sector would consider taking in response to an influenza pandemic.
The Victorian health management plan for pandemic influenza (VHMPPI) was released in October 2014 and provides a framework for government and the health sector to minimise transmissibility, morbidity and mortality associated with an influenza pandemic, and to manage the impact of a pandemic on the community and the health system. The VHMPPI provides both tools and strategies to:
- establish surveillance systems to rapidly and efficiently identify the emergence of new strains of influenza in the Victorian community
- implement measures to limit or prevent the transmission of pandemic influenza in the various stages of progression
- monitor the status of the outbreak
- maximise resources
- use surveillance data to best meet the needs of the current situation
- meet staffing needs and requirements
- implement policies on the use of personal protective equipment and antivirals
- communicate accurate, consistent and comprehensive information about the situation to the general public, the media, health sector partners and other key stakeholders.
The Victorian action plan for pandemic influenza, which was updated in 2015 and is available from the Emergency Management Victoria website, sets out Victoria’s approach for reducing the social and economic impacts and consequences of a pandemic influenza on communities. The plan is for Victorian government departments and their agencies to use; however, other organisations including local government, businesses and non-government organisations can also use the plan as a guide.
Hygiene and infection control resources
Although annual immunisation is the best way to avoid spreading the flu, another effective way to protect ourselves and others from illness is good personal hygiene. These are some principles of good personal hygiene:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw your tissue in a plastic-lined rubbish bin after use.
- After you cough or sneeze wash your hands with soap and water, or if water is unavailable use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread that way.
- Don’t go to work if you are unwell and don’t send your children to school or childcare if they are unwell.