The Picture of Health. Public Health Improvement Plan
Pandemic Flu: What Can We Expect and How Do We Plan?

Pandemic Flu
What Can We Expect and How Do We Plan?

Pandemic flu planning is based on certain assumptions. Most importantly, experts expect that a vaccine for pandemic flu will not be immediately available, perhaps for as long as six months into a pandemic situation.

Other assumptions that guide our national, state and local planning efforts include:

    • Everyone will be susceptible to the pandemic.
    • 30% or more of the population will become ill.
    • In a severe pandemic, absenteeism may reach 40% during the peak of the infection.  Absenteeism will be due largely to illness, the need to care for ill family members, and fear of infection.
    • Certain public health measures (closing schools, voluntary isolation and public closures) are likely to increase rates of absenteeism.
    • A pandemic outbreak will last about 6 to 8 weeks.
    • Multiple waves (periods during which community outbreaks occur across the country) of illness could occur.  Each wave could last 2-3 months.

Visit for a complete list of planning assumptions and planning guidance for businesses, schools, health care providers, individuals and communities.

For information on how you can prepare for pandemic or any public health emergency, please visit our Public Health Preparedness Resources.