Pandemics are epidemics of disease that occur on a worldwide scale and are traditionally caused by infectious diseases such as influenza. Although unpredictable in their timing, recent history indicates that influenza pandemics can be expected to occur every 10 to 50 years and it is almost certain they will continue to occur. It is this level of certainty, and the fact that almost all humans will be vulnerable, that makes it paramount that planning is carried out at all levels of government.
The Government's overall strategy for responding to an emerging pandemic is to plan a number of measures to:
- Delay the arrival of the pandemic in Australia.
- Contain or slow the spread of the pandemic virus once it reaches Australia. Social distancing personal hygiene management strategies will be encouraged.
An influenza pandemic in Australia may:
- arise rapidly and spread quickly
- make people very ill and many will likely die
- generate unprecedented levels of fear
- occur in several waves, each lasting for several months
- require government, business and many community agencies to be involved in a whole-of-society response
- force the closure of schools, child care centres and public gatherings as a social distancing measure
- result in health care services not being able to provide direct care in some cases
- result in very high staff absence rates for some periods during the pandemic.
To prepare for an influenza pandemic Federal, state and territory governments in Australia and organisations around the World have developed plans to deal with such a situation. These include:
- The Northern Territory Government's Department of Health and Families has developed the NT Special Counter Disaster Plan for Human Pandemic Influenza (Adobe PDF document - 362KB)
- The Australian Government's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has developed the National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic
- The Australian Government's Department of Health and Ageing has developed the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza
The Federal Department of Health and Ageing and Australian State/Territory Health Departments have also prepared a range of useful resources:
- Clinical description and diagnosis
- Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2010)
The World Health Organisation released the: