Influenza, commonly called “the flu”, is caused by a virus that primarily affects the nose, throat, airways, and lungs. Influenza viruses are divided into two types, influenza type A and B. Both influenza types typically circulate in the United States during late fall and winter. Each type of influenza virus has many different strains, which tend to change from year to year. Pandemic influenza is a widespread outbreak of disease that would affect a large number of people worldwide caused by a new influenza A virus. Every year, influenza A viruses undergo small seasonal changes called “genetic drifts”. Whenever the influenza A virus undergoes a major change called a “genetic shift”, a new influenza A virus is created. This major change may cause a pandemic of influenza.
A new influenza A virus may cause more severe illness than the influenza A viruses that normally circulate on a seasonal basis. Most people will have little or no natural resistance to the new influenza A virus. No one knows exactly when a pandemic of influenza will occur.
What is the Oklahoma State Department of Health doing to prepare for a pandemic of influenza?
- The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has formed a Pandemic Influenza Committee, which has developed a management plan to address the public health response to a pandemic influenza event. It is intended to be a resource document for public health preparedness at the state, regional and local level to help maximize and distribute our available resources. The plan undergoes an annual review and revision.
- The OSDH monitors influenza activity working with many community partners. During influenza season, OSDH works with a network of physicians and laboratories regionally distributed throughout the state to record influenza activity and spread. Influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths are also reported to the OSDH.
- During influenza season, OSDH publishes weekly influenza activity reports on its website to keep healthcare providers and the general public updated during the flu season.
- The OSDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) receives specimens from physicians and laboratories throughout the state to test for influenza and other respiratory viruses.
- When outbreaks of respiratory viruses occur in schools, nursing homes, or other institutional settings, they are reported to the local county health department. Once outbreaks are reported, specimens are collected and submitted to the PHL for viral identification.
Pandemic Influenza Fact Sheets and Information:
Pandemic Influenza Fact Sheet (16k.pdf)