Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans


A PANDEMIC refers to the ability of a disease to cause a GLOBAL outbreak. More specifically, an influenza pandemic is the worldwide outbreak of non-human influenza that gains the ability to infect humans often in numbers clearly in excess of normal rates. A global influenza pandemic may occur if three conditions are met:

    • A new, or novel, influenza virus is introduced into the human population;
    • The virus causes serious illness in humans, and;
    • The virus can  spread easily from person to person.

Often, a disease that becomes pandemic can infect different hosts, like pigs, birds, and humans. Sometimes these viruses can only be passed from animals to humans, but once the virus is capable of easily spreading from human to human, the threat of a global pandemic increases.

Althought a pandemic can occur with almost any disease, it is one of the more serious concerns for influenza. The concern that the influenza virus could reach pandemic levels every season is so high due to the fact that the virus has the ability to change into a completely new strain quite rapidly. A novel strain that shows up quickly often means:

    • That a majority of the global population will have little to no immunity;
    • A vaccine most likely does not exist;
    • Or a vaccine is not yet available to the public in a large enough amount to prevent the spread of the new influenza virus.

The United States works closely with other countries and organizations to rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks of influenza that may cause a pandemic. Idaho Public Health Officials are working at the state and local level to prepare for and respond to influenza pandemics in the state.


During a public health emergency, but after you and your loved ones are safe, the Idaho 2-1-1 CareLine can provide you with up-to-date information regarding medical assistance, food and clothing, emergency sheltering, and more. PLUS, operators with the 2-1-1 CareLine provide FREE community information everyday, all day, even during non-emergencies!

Link to Idaho 2-1-1 CareLine website

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Past Pandemics

In the past 100 years there have been four influenza pandemics, which include:

    • Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919;
    • Asian Flu of 1957-1958;
    • Hong Kong Flu of 1968-1969, and;
    • Swine Flu of 2009-2010.

The most severe pandemic to hit Idaho was the 1918 Spanish Influenza. Pandemic Spanish Influenza arrived in Idaho sometime before the end of late September 1918. On September 30th, officials reported several cases of Spanish Flu in Canyon County. Less than two weeks later, the number of cases to such an extent that the state was unable to track the disease accurately. By late October, Spanish Flu cases were reported in Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Moscow, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Wallace, and many other towns. More detailed information about Idaho's pandemic history can be found HERE!

Quick facts about the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic in Idaho & other Western States

    • Rural Idaho suffered terribly from the pandemic.The mortality rate was nearly 50% in Paris, Idaho.
    • Quarantines had no real impact on the spread of the disease. While influenza rates lessened during the late fall, it was not until the summer of 1919 that the disease began to disappear from the state.
    • Native Americans suffered disproportionately from the Spanish Flu Pandemic.From October 1, 1918 to March 31, 1919 there were 73,651 reported cases of influenza and 6,270 deaths out of the total Native American population of 304,854 in the Western States.
    • The highest mortality rate for Native Americans during the pandemic occurred in Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, and New Mexico.
    • In Idaho, out of a reported Native American population of 4,208 there were 650 influenza cases and 75 deaths (case mortality of 11.5%).

Is there a difference?

All Idahoans should be concerned about BOTH seasonal and pandemic influenza. If and when individuals become infected with a new strain of influenza, the symptoms closely match those of seasonal influenza, but may be more severe in some persons. Remember, these symptoms may include:

    • Fever,
    • Cough,
    • Sore throat,
    • General feeling of tiredness and,
    • Body aches.

Some people may experience more than the abovementioned symptoms, while others do not show any symptoms. Also, the very young, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, pregnant women, and people suffering from compromised immune systems are at greater risk of suffering from complications from pandemic influenza.

People with the Flu can possibly infect others by shedding the virus from 1 day before getting sick with symptoms to 5 to 7 days after. When people with the Flu cough, sneeze, or talk droplets can land in the mouth or noses of people who are nearby. Pandemic strains of influenza are no different. They spread rapidly across the globe and across populations because in today's modern society thousands of flights come in and out of countries daily! Populations are constantly mixing with those once isolated spreading diseases to parts of the world not normally impacted. If you get sick with the Flu remember to: 

    • Stay at home at rest!
    • Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you don't make them sick.
    • Drink plenty of WATER and CLEAR LIQUIDS to avoid dehydration.
    • Treat a fever and cough with medicines found at the store.
    • If you get very sick or are pregnant or have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk of flu complications (asthma, etc.), call your doctor. You might need antiviral medicine to treat the flu.
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Public Health Preparedness

Idaho's Public Health Preparedness Program (PHPP) is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all Idahoans, the state's healthcare, mental and behavioral health, and public health systems are PREPARED for, can RESPOND to, and RECOVER from future pandemics, especially pandemics of influenza.

The PHPP and the seven Idaho Public Health Districts collaborate in a coordinated effort on response plans that reduce morbidity, mortality, and the social and economic impact of an influenza pandemic in Idaho. The 2009 H1N1 influenze pandemic highlighted the need for extensive pandemic response planning to occur at all levels of government. The response to any pandemic is complex, multi-faceted, and long-term.

Idaho's pandemic response:

    • Includes a coordinated response effort consistent across all state agencies and healthcare systems;
    • Ensures timely, accurate, and consistent communication with the public;
    • Implements laboratory and epidemiological surveillance protocols;
    • Tracks influenza-associated appropriate vaccines, medications, and medical supplies;
    • Disseminates essential medical supplies to the public,
    • Coordinate the provision of mortuary services, temporary morgue facilities, victim identification, and processing, preparation, and disposition of remains;
    • Assists in assessing mental health needs and providing disaster emergency mental health needs, and;
    • Refers resources to community partners for implementing community mitigation interventions.

Who should PREPARE?

Everyone from individuals, to families, to schools and businesses should be prepared for Seasonal AND Pandemic Influenza and should know that the steps towards prevention are the same.

Find resources prepared by the CDC below for you, your family, your friends, and your workplace. It's everyone's responsibility to UNDO the FLU!

Quick facts about PANDEMIC “THREATS” to the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries:


    • In 2009, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus emerged, was detected in the United States, and quickly spread throughout the country and around the world. A monovalent vaccine was produced and made
      available, but after the second wave went through the United States. The virus affected children and young and middle-aged adults. People over 60 years of age had antibodies from the virus from a previous exposure. The CDC estimated that there were 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 death in the United States.
    • In 1997 (A/H5N1, “Avian Flu”, “Bird Flu”) and in 1999 (A/H9N2) two new influenza pandemic threats emerged in Hong Kong. Both avian viruses have infected humans directly without having been altered first
      by infecting pigs as an intermediate host. 
    • In May 1977, the “Russian Flu” emerged in north China and spread rapidly in children and young adults worldwide. Because of similarities to other influenza viruses that had circulated before 1957, most people over 23 years of age had some immunity to the disease and therefore the epidemic was not considered a true pandemic.
    • The “Swine Flu” of 1976 was identified in Fort Dix, New Jersey and at
      first was thought to be related to the 1918 virus. A mass vaccination of US citizens contained the threat to the Fort Dix area.
    • In February 1957, a new influenza A (H2N2) virus emerged in East Asia, triggering a pandemic known as “Asian Flu”. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States.