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Seasonal flu and pandemic flu are two completely different beasts. There are plenty of factors to consider when identifying a pandemic. Luckily, these factors are tracked by several agencies that can give some advanced warning.
Unluckily, our growing urban populations are more susceptible today to fast-spreading pandemics than ever before. Hygiene, modern medicine, and even rodent control are all counterbalanced by one large factor: our booming population centers. The population explosion is not slowing down; it is doing the opposite.
Flu strains are predicted before the annual season not just for vaccination purposes, but for tracking purposes as well. It is a dice roll since there is no way to be sure what strain of seasonal flu is around the corner, but it is at least a loaded dice roll: like predicting the weather.
The accuracy rate is between 40-60% according to the CDC, and then it has varying effectiveness based on the type of flu strain. Still, it has been proven to eliminate many flu cases on an annual basis.
The real threat is not the typical seasonal strain, but the strains that we are only exposed to rarely. The Spanish Flu killed off 5% of the world population while the world was distracted by World War I. One of the largest pandemics in history was caused by a simple Flu strain that even middle aged people had not developed a resistance to. In this article we look at the warning signs for when a Flu has become a pandemic, and how to protect yourself in that event: When Does a Flu Become a Pandemic?
Staying alert for early warnings can help you from becoming a statistic in the next pandemic. With a little preparedness, training, and common sense most viruses can be avoided. People as a whole are much less hygienic than you may think, but good hygiene can help protect you and your family. This is one reason why third world countries are potentially the most susceptible to pandemics.
Establishing good habits now could actually make the difference between life and death, or at the very least help you avoid the seasonal flu every once in a while.