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Pandemic influenza

Differences between Pandemic influenza, seasonal flu and Avian Influenza

Pandemic influenza, Seasonal Flu Outbreaks, Avian Influenza?

Seasonal influenza pertains to periodic outbreaks caused by several types of flu viruses strain particular to a geographic area. In Australia, the flu season reaches its peak during winter. Varying seasons entail unique vaccine formulations to effectively protect humans against virus strains. This means keeping up with mutating influenza viruses that are likely to be in circulation, each and every year through extensive research and flu vaccine development.

Influenza vaccines are prepared beforehand to combat the prevalent influenza viruses expected to cause the annual seasonal influenza outbreak. Up-to-date Quadrivalent Flu vaccinations give people some form of immunity, thereby limiting the spread of the highly contagious respiratory illness. The flu is characterized as a severe illness that affects even the healthiest individual and can be fatal to people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma. Since there is no cure for influenza, flu shots serve as the best means of prevention and protection.

What flu strains are we expecting?

Recommendations for the upcoming flu season

Pandemic influenza pertains to worldwide outbreaks of flu in humans which vary in severity. It can seem like a bad flu season in some cases and can quickly escalate to a global crisis that marks its place in history. A pandemic occurs upon the emergence of a new human-infecting strain of the influenza virus or a mutated influenza Type A virus.

People might have little to no natural immunity yet to this new strain, thus allowing the rapid spread of the virus from person to person. It could take months to develop a vaccine that can protect people against the newly-emerged influenza virus.

Pandemics happened several times in the 20th century, causing thousands to millions of deaths in 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009 (21st century). It's impossible to predict the next global outbreak, but many scientists believe that it's only a matter of time. Awareness can encourage more people to make the wise decision of getting immunised against the flu.

Avian influenza or bird flu falls under two groups. Low pathogenic avian influenza affects wild birds as well as domestic poultry, where minor symptoms to no sign of infection are exhibited.

Generally, these low-mortality strains pose an insignificant threat to human health. However, the H5 and H7 strains can possibly mutate into a highly pathogenic avian influenza. Highly pathogenic avian influenza spreads rapidly and has recorded a high death rate in birds. It's rarely transmitted to humans, but when a person gets infected, death can be inevitable.

H5N1 is the deadliest of the very few avian flu viruses that have crossed the species barrier with the ability to infect humans. Infected individuals have reportedly come in contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces with traces of bird secretions/excretions.

The spread of avian influenza among humans has been limited to rare, sporadic cases since February 2007. Influenza H5N1 virus remains under close monitoring. Scientists do not disregard the potential of the avian virus strain with a high mortality rate to evolve. Mutation could have the virus easily transmitted among non-immune people and ultimately lead to a dreaded pandemic.

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Aitor is a Registered Nurse (AHPRA registration NMW0001159845) with over 17 years experience in General Nursing, Emergency Nursing and Corporate Health. He loves Flu, works with Flu, studies Flu, writes about Flu and ironically, he’s had the Flu.

He is the Nurse Consultant at Corporate Care and a proud member of the Australian National Padel Team.