Public Health, Epidemics, & Pandemics


Public health concerns are more than a passing concern, they are a prominent issue within our region.  From the health ratings at restaurants to the spread of the flu, public health receives a constant focus.  During the 2009-2010 winter, the Swine Flu (or H1N1 Influenza) reached a pandemic status, leading the the Center for Disease Control changing flu vaccines the following season.  Healthy habits and proper precautionary measures are necessary to prevent the spread of public health issues.

Epidemics & Pandemics

The terms “epidemic” and “pandemic” stimulate fear and anxiety, but why?  What is the difference between the normal flu season and an epidemic like the H1N1 epidemic in 2009-2010?  Epidemics exceed what is expected within an area.  A large number of people are expected to “catch” the flu each year.  In response to this expectation, medications for vaccination and treatment are ordered and stockpiled by pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals.  However, when the number of cases propel to an unexpected or unpredicted level, it is then considered an epidemic.  During an epidemic, the availability of vaccinations and medications for treatment are often exhausted.  A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease.  Both epidemics and pandemics are caused by a virus appearing in the human population.  Because, in most cases, the virus is relatively new to the population, it causes serious illness or death and spreads easily.

The best thing you can do to be prepared for an epidemic or pandemic is to stay alert and informed.  Pay attention to press releases and interviews when physicians or health department officials are involved.  The following tips may also help you to be prepared:

  • Keep an emergency supply kit ready.
  • Follow directions from public health and emergency management officials.
  • Wash your hands regularly.  Germs are spread through interactions with other people and surfaces.  Clean hands helps to prevent spreading.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.  Many illness are air-borne, meaning they can be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.
  • If you are sick, do not go to school or work.  Containing the illness is the first step to preventing its spread.

Flu Facts

As soon as flu vaccinations are available each fall, everyone 6 months of age and older should get one.  Take advantage of the many opportunities to get flu shots each fall.  Vaccinations are updated yearly to fight against the most active flu strains, so getting that yearly vaccination may prevent suffering from the flu.  Additional information about the flu, including high risk groups and medical advice for each group, can be found by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at