Public health officials agree that the next major pandemic will be influenza. Are U.S. hospitals ready for it?
The HHS estimates that an infectious disease pandemic could infect 90 million Americans and kill as many as 1.9 million people. This kind of pandemic would put a strain on the country's healthcare system, sicken hospital staff and stretch hospital resources to their limits and beyond.
An influenza pandemic would go well beyond the normal seasonal flu virus. Patients’ immune systems won’t be able to cope with a pandemic flu, and it will spread quickly across the globe.
This isn’t just the stuff of science fiction. There have been multiple pandemics over the past century.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 caused more than 50 million deaths. Between 20% and 40% of the world became infected. The late-1950s saw the Asian flu, which killed about 2 million people, including 70,000 in the U.S. In recent years, the H1N1 virus in 2019 killed 17,000 people worldwide.
Billionaire Bill Gates spoke about the pandemic threat earlier this year during a security conference in Munich.
“Imagine if I told you somewhere in this world, there’s a weapon that exists -- or that could emerge -- capable of killing tens of thousands, or millions of people, bringing economies to a standstill and throwing nations into chaos,” Gates said. “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year.”
Hospitals across the country are now planning and testing models to implement when an infectious disease pandemic eventually hits the U.S.