Flu Shots - Next Big Influenza Outbreak

There is great concern about when the next big outbreak of influenza (the flu) will occur, adding significantly to the reasons to get a flu shot this year.

Influenza is an acute (abrupt) respiratory disease. It is highly contagious and is now very much a disease of global importance.

The word "influenza" is menacing to those who know of the great pandemics of this century. These pandemics have occurred for centuries, three times -- 1918, 1957 and 1968 -- in the 20th century alone. The infamous "Spanish flu" of 1918 was responsible for more than 20 million deaths, primarily among young adults.

A pandemic is an epidemic, a sudden outbreak, that becomes extremely widespread and affects a whole region, an entire continent, or the world.

Influenza Viruses Unique

Influenza is an extraordinary infectious disease. It emerges and reemerges. Influenza causes an annual epidemic that is due to influenza viruses that reemerge, having mutated (changed) enough so they can reinfect people who had an earlier bout of flu. And pandemics of influenza can strike unpredictably because of the emergence of new types of influenza virus that are harbored in birds.

Influenza viruses are unique in their ability to cause sudden, pervasive illnesses in all age groups on a global scale. With the frequency of global travel the threat of a pandemic is all the more real and frightening.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/13/2015