Bird Flu Pandemic
While there is no bird flu pandemic at this time, it's important to understand what a pandemic is (global outbreak of disease) and how it occurs (when a new influenza A virus causes serious human illness and spreads easily). Pandemic stages include six phases divided into three periods: interpandemic period (stages 1 and 2), pandemic alert period (stages 3-5), and pandemic period (stage 6).
Is There a Bird Flu Pandemic?
Currently, there is no bird flu pandemic. A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus causes serious human illness and spreads easily from person to person.
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses a six-phase pandemic alert system as a means of informing the world of the seriousness of the threat and of the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities. These six stages are broken into three phases, as follows:
- Interpandemic period (stage 1 and 2)
- Pandemic alert period (stages 3, 4, and 5)
- Pandemic period (stage 6).
The World Health Organization currently has the bird flu pandemic at stage 3. In this stage, human infections with a new subtype have occurred, but there has been no human-to-human spread or, at most, only rare instances of the virus spreading between close contacts.
Experts at WHO and elsewhere believe that the world is closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred. The Director-General of WHO designates when the phases move from one stage to the next.
(Click Influenza Pandemic for more information about a possible bird flu pandemic.)