"Influenza viruses have the ability to cause sudden, widespread illness in all age groups on a global scale. Because influenza is highly transmissible, is prone to rapid genetic changes, and is harbored in animal reservoirs, it poses an unpredictable pandemic threat. A pandemic occurs when an influenza A virus undergoes a shift in one or both of it's surface proteins to create a new or 'novel' virus to which the general population has no immunity. The initial appearance of a novel virus that is easily spread in humans is the first step toward a pandemic. The current trivalent vaccine would have no effect on the new strain of influenza and a specific monovalent vaccine could take several months to be prepared. Therefore public health departments need to develop a strategy to prepare for and reduce the effects of an influenza pandemic on a local level. This plan defines the various stages of a flu pandemic and outlines a tier of responses that can be used to mitigate the outbreak."
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