Pandemic Influenza


By taking simple but critical steps, anyone can help prevent the spread of flu.

Flu Pandemics Compared to Seasonal Flu

Flu pandemics are caused by a virus that is "novel" (new) or different from flu viruses that circulated previously. Flu pandemics often cause more severe illness and death due to people having little to no natural resistance to a new virus and there is no readily available vaccine.

Seasonal flu outbreaks are caused by small changes in the common flu viruses. Even though these viruses may change slightly from one flu season to another, many people have developed some immunity. Because similar viruses have circulated previously, vaccines are more readily available.

NYC Preparation

No one can predict when a pandemic might occur. Flu pandemics are known to have occurred several times each century since the Middle Ages.

The Health Department is working with many organizations and partners to prepare for a possible flu pandemic in NYC. Planning includes making sure hospitals are ready to treat patients and educating doctors and all New Yorkers. The Health Department has systems to identify where and when flu viruses occur, and to help communicate quickly about how to avoid infection.


In a pandemic, officials from the CDC work quickly with partners to produce a vaccine that would be available for use within a few months of the start of the outbreak. These partners include universities and industry, as well as state and local health authorities.

Flu vaccines are made to protect against specific viruses that are already known. A pandemic vaccine cannot be produced until a new flu virus appears and starts to cause a large number of human illnesses.

If a pandemic occurs, government will work with partner organizations to make specific recommendations on the early use of vaccine. Current recommendations are to first target limited vaccine supplies to people at high risk and health care workers.


Flu antiviral medicines are prescription drugs that can reduce flu symptoms and shorten the length of time people are sick. These medicines may also make a person less likely to spread a flu to others.

The government has stored antiviral medicines. They continue to make recommendations about who should be the first to receive antiviral medicines based on their risk, role in fighting the pandemic and severity of illness.

Community Impact

The effects of a pandemic could be severe. Many people could become sick at the same time and be unable to go to work. Many people might have to stay at home to care for sick family members. Schools and businesses might close for a time to try to reduce the spread of disease. Large group gatherings might be canceled.

Managing Stress

A flu outbreak in NYC can be stressful, especially if it is large scale event. It can disrupt your life and make you feel less safe. You may experience fear and uncertainty. Learning about stress and methods to manage it can help you cope.

If there is a flu outbreak in the city and you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, or if you are concerned about someone else, contact NYC Well.

Additional Resources

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