Pandemic Preparedness (Influenza A)

Viral RNA replication errors constantly introduce changes in the influenza A genome. These changes increase the risk that a circulating non-human influenza viruses may gain the ability to be sustainably spread among humans, triggering a pandemic. An influenza pandemic can occur when a non-human (novel) influenza virus gains the ability for efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission and then spreads globally.

Current examples of influenza viruses with pandemic potential include:

When an influenza virus is identified as a pandemic risk, the World Health Organization and the CDC collaborate to determine the viral components necessary to produce an effective vaccine. Commercial production of a vaccine takes time. Meanwhile, the public may need to rely on nonpharmaceutical interventions including: isolation and quarantine, social distancing, use of masks, hand washing, and respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette to prevent transmission. Strict adherence to "Standard", "Droplet" and "Airborne" precautions will be key to limiting the the spread of the virus.

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families.
The HHS pandemic plan includes:

Example List
Food and non-perishables
Health supplies
  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, vegetables, fruits and soup
  • Protein & fruit bars
  • Dry cereals
  • Peanut butter & nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Crackers
  • Canned juices
  • Bottled water
  • Canned or jarred baby food & formula
  • Pet food
  • Prescribed medications & supplies: glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment, colostomy devices, etc.
  • Soap and alcohol-based hand wash
  • Wound dressing
  • Fever meds, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Thermometer
  • Anti-diarrhea meds
  • Vitamins
  • Fluids with electrolytes
  • Cleaning agents
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Portable radio
  • Manual can opener
  • Garbage Bags
  • Tissue, toilet paper, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products,

The world economy has become very interconnected; many raw materials and products are only produced outside of the United States. A pandemic beginning in Asia and spreading to Europe is likey to produce shortages of medical supplies, drugs, clothing and nearly every other commodity we have come to rely on. Prudent preparation will be key to sustaining health and well being.

A pandemic will test the social fabric of the USA, many of our domestic services will be outstripped. All types of societal services including: police, fire, EMS, utilities, mail, communications, education etc., will all be seriously affected by loss of personnel.

It is assumed that the pandemic will involve sequential waves of infection. High initial death rates followed by ebbing due to social distancing and then additional waves of infection as the virus mutates and populations attempt to reconnect.

The nursing implications of an influenza pandemic are really beyond imagination, but our science is well founded, our profession is committed and well regarded. Nursing will make pivotal contributions to the health and safety of our nation, just as it has done in the past.