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A pandemic is an outbreak of illness that affects the entire world. It happens when a new strain of the influenza virus suddenly appears and people have no immunity to combat the virus. Pandemics are highly contagious and spread rapidly from person to person from a simple cough or sneeze, or by touching something recently contaminated by infectious fluids from the nose and throat of an ill person. This could be as simple as shaking hands with an infected person.

Experts predict the effects of an influenza pandemic will last 6 to 8 weeks in individual communities, with subsequent waves occurring 3 to 9 months later. Since so many people will be infected and ill, a pandemic could have a huge impact on essential services and community functions.