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Pandemic Influenza

Influenza, commonly called “the flu”, is caused by a virus that primarily affects the nose, throat, bronchial 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 subtype of an influenza A strain.  Every year influenza A viruses undergo small seasonal changes called genetic drifts.  Whenever an influenza A virus undergoes a major change called genetic shift, a new influenza A virus subtype is created.  This major change may cause a pandemic of influenza. 

A new influenza A virus subtype 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 or if 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.  More information on the plan may be found on the Oklahoma Pandemic Influenza Management Plan page.
  • The OSDH monitors influenza activity working with many community partners.  During influenza season, OSDH works with 30 physicians from 27 Oklahoma counties and ten laboratories regionally distributed throughout the state to record influenza activity and spread. 
  • During influenza season, OSDH publishes weekly influenza activity reports on its website.
  • The OSDH Public Health Laboratory (PHL) receives specimens from physicians throughout the state to test for influenza and other respiratory viruses.  The PHL has the ability to test for the H5 subtype Asian strain type A influenza virus in order to rapidly detect an occurrence of the H5N1 Asian strain type A influenza in Oklahoma.
  • 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  

 Pandemic Influenza Hoja Informativa
2007 Oklahoma Pandemic Influenza Management Plan
Oklahoma Pandemic Influenza Management Plan Fact Sheet

External Pandemic Influenza Resources:
National Pandemic Flu Plan
WHO Pandemic Influenza
Health and Human Services Pandemic Influenza 

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