What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is a widespread infectious disease that spreads quickly and widely among human or animal populations.

Pandemics often relate to a virus such as the H1N1 influenza. Animals frequently develop new viruses and when an animal virus combines with a human one, humans can become ill. Because the virus is new, most of the host population can become highly susceptible to infection.

Why a pandemic is a crisis

A severe pandemic can disrupt a society and its economy. It could overwhelm a nation's health system and harm its trade.

A pandemic may force organisations to take extraordinary staffing measures. The delivery of services and products may have to be adjusted, even stopped. Such actions have financial impacts for businesses and governments alike.

Phases of a pandemic outbreak

Australia classifies the phases of a pandemic differently from the World Health Organization (WHO). This allows us to act before the WHO declares a change of phase.

Potential pandemic threats

Some potential pandemic threats for humans include:

  • Human influenza (flu) - Of the 3 main types of flu virus (A, B and C), only type A viruses are known to cause pandemics.
  • Swine flu (H1N1) - Most swine flu viruses do not infect humans, or do so mildly. The H1N1 virus of 2009-2010 was an exception.
  • Avian (bird) flu - Avian flu is caused by type A viruses that affect wild birds and poultry. There have been few human infections.

Some potential threats for rural Australian businesses include:

Good biosecurity is critical if a rural business is to safeguard its viability and protect Australia's environment, economy and people.

Also consider...