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Public Health

Pandemic Influenza and H1N1:  Protecting yourself, your family, and your community.

What is the flu?
  Flu refers to illnesses caused by a number of different influenza viruses. Flu can cause a range of symptoms and effects, from mild to lethal.

Most healthy people recover from the flu without problems, but certain people are at high risk for serious complications.

Flu symptoms may include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. In H1N1 flu infection, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.

Annual outbreaks of the seasonal flu usually occur during the late fall through early spring. In a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu and approximately 36,000 flu-related deaths are reported.  Seasonal flu vaccine is available each fall and winter.

What is a flu pandemic?  A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza A virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population; the virus causes serious illness and spreads easily from person-to-person worldwide. 

What is H1N1?  Novel (new) H1N1 influenza is a completely new strain of flu.  No one had ever seen it before it began making people sick in April, 2009.  At first people called it the “swine flu” – although you don’t really get it from pigs.  Once it was here, it quickly spread around the world, becoming a pandemic.  It came in two “waves”, first in the spring of 2009, with a second wave following in the fall and winter of 2009 – 2010. 

While H1N1 ended up not being as severe as many had feared an influenza pandemic would be, it did make many people ill, and made some seriously ill.  H1N1 was comparable to seasonal flu, in that it makes some people much sicker than others.  Unlike seasonal flu, H1N1 seemed to target young adults and children more than older people.

How can I protect myself, my family, and my community during flu season?
First, get a seasonal flu vaccination.  This year (2010), the seasonal flu vaccine will contain the H1N1 influenza strain.  Getting vaccinated is especially important if you are pregnant, a child or young adult, a health care worker or emergency worker, someone who lives with or cares for a child under the age of 6 months, someone with an underlying health condition, or older than 50 years of age.  Flu vaccines have been tested for effectiveness and safety.  Many people have concerns about Thimerosal (a preservative), used in very small amounts in flu vaccine, as well as general questions about the safety of flu vaccine.  Links are provided below with more information. 

Second, help prevent the spread of illness (not just influenza) with a few simple steps.  Practice good, frequent handwashing.   If you are ill, stay home from work or school, particularly if you have a fever, cough, or sore throat.  And cover your cough, to stop the spread of germs that make you and others sick

What else do I need to do to be prepared for pandemic influenza? 
Fortunately, the H1N1 influenza pandemic was essentially mild.  Normal health care functions, school functions, etc. went on as usual with little interruption.  However, a more virulent strain of pandemic influenza could have a devastating effect locally, statewide, nationally, and even globally.   Whether for a pandemic influenza, or another emergency that could strike our area, it is important to be prepared.   While national, state, and local governments work to prepare for these situations, during a large scale emergency services would be overwhelmed.  The federal government has warned us that local communities will be on their own to provide for citizens.  Cass County and the state of Minnesota has worked to prepare, the H1N1 pandemic was a good exercise in our preparedness.  However it is important for individuals and families to take steps to prepare for this scenario.  There are many measures you can take.


Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you can’t get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.


Ask your doctor and insurance company if you can get an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs.


Have non-prescription drugs and other medical supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes (such as Gatorade), and vitamins.


Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.


Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.


Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic or other emergency.


Teach your children to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and model the current behavior.


Teach your children to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues or their sleeves, and be sure to model that behavior.


Teach your children to stay away from others as much as possible if they are sick. Stay home from work and school if sick.

While we are concerned about a possible influenza pandemic, being prepared will allow your family to be ready for any emergency or natural disaster.  Click on the pictures below for more resources.

Emergency Preparedness Resources     Emergency Preparedness Resources      Emergency Preparedness Resources

Emergency Preparedness Resources


Handwashing information                    Handwashing information

Handwashing information


Infection control information                                    Infection control information

Infection control information


Vaccine safety information                                    Vaccine safety information

Vaccine safety information


Local questions about emergency preparedness in Cass County should be directed to Marlee Morrison, Cass County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, at (218) 547-1340 x217, or

© Cass County, MN, 2014