Pandemic Illness History
Plague is an ancient disease that is not likely to disappear; its continued outbreaks throughout the world prove its persistence.Epidemics of plague in humans usually involve house rats and their fleas. Rat-borne epidemics continue to occur in some developing countries, particularly in rural areas. The last rat-borne epidemic in the United States occurred in Los Angeles in 1924-25. In the United States during the 1980s plague cases averaged about 18 per year. Most of the cases occurred in persons under 20 years of age. About 1 in 7 persons with plague died. Worldwide, there are 1,000 to 2,000 cases each year. This link provides a worldwide distribution pattern. Click here to learn about the natural history of plague from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed: August 2, 2006. http://www.cdc.gov/NCIDOD/DVBID/plague/history.htm
Cholera is an infectious disease that typically spreads in countries with: poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. The bacterium causing the disease was identified in 1884. Epidemiologists discovered how cholera was being spread almost 100 years later. Since this discovery cholera has been very rare in developed nations. The organism persists in coastal salt waters making it difficult to eradicate. A pandemic for several decades continues in poor countries in Asia , Africa , and Latin America . The cholera epidemic in Africa has lasted more than 30 years. Click here to learn more about cholera from the CDC.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed: August 2, 2006. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/cholera_g.htm#What%20is%20cholera
Smallpox is believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago in India or Egypt . Smallpox is one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity. Smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring and often deadly disease caused by the variola virus. For centuries, repeated epidemics swept across continents, destroying human populations. Few other illnesses have had such a profound effect on human health and history. In the 20th century alone, an estimated 300 million people died of smallpox.
The last natural outbreak of smallpox in the U.S. occurred in 1949, thanks to vaccinations. In 1980, smallpox was said to be wiped out worldwide, and no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have been recorded since.
Sources: (1) Smallpox Eradication – Report of a WHO Scientific Group: World Health Organization Technical Report Series, No. 393 (Geneva: WHO, 1968), 7, Official Publications Room, Cambridge University Library, UK. (2) Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed: August 2, 2006. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/basics/outbreak.asp
Three worldwide pandemic outbreaks of influenza occurred in the 20th century: in 1918, 1957, and 1968. All 3 are referred to by their presumed sites of origin as Spanish, Asian, and Hong Kong influenza, respectively. They are now known to represent 3 different strains of influenza A virus: H1N1, H2N2, and H3N2, respectively.
- 1918 “Spanish influenza” - the most devastating flu pandemic in recent history, killing more than 500,000 people in the U.S. and 40-50 million people worldwide.
- 1957 “Asian influenza” - claimed 70,000 people’s lives in the U.S. and 2 million worldwide.
- 1968 “ Hong Kong influenza” - killed 34,000 people in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.
Notable appearances of new influenza strains in humans have occurred in 1977, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Sources: (1) Kilbourne ED. Influenza pandemics of the 20th century. Emerging Infectious Disease. Accessed: August 2, 2006. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol12no01/05-1254.htm (2) National Institute of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. (3) World Health Organization Ten things you need to know about pandemic illness. Accessed August 3, 2006 . http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic10things/en/
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Emergency Preparedness Checklists & Tools
Do you need help with setting up plans to be prepared for an emergency situation?
Click here for a link to checklists and other tools developed for individuals, families, pets, community & faith-based organizations, government officials, businesses, schools, healthcare providers and special needs populations.
What can people do?
- Stay informed.
- Practice good health habits - eat a balanced diet, exercise and get sufficient rest.
- Don't spread germs - cover your coughs and sneezes with your arm and wash your hands often.
- Stay away from sick people. If you are ill, stay away from others.
- Be sure you have plans in place for yourself, your family, church, business or school in order to be prepared for and respond to emergency situations.
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H5N1 Avian Influenza “Bird Flu”
You may have heard of “bird flu” in the media. It might be surprising to know that there are actually many kinds of flu that infect wild and domestic birds. Recently health officials have been especially concerned about one particular strain of bird flu. Known as “H5N1” it can make people and birds severely ill.
The H5N1 flu virus has affected hundreds of thousands of birds, and more than 200 humans worldwide. The bird flu is not currently demonstrating spread from person to person, but some scientists fear it could change into a deadly new type that spreads easily from one person to another. Health officials are concerned that it may combine with a human flu virus to become the next pandemic influenza strain in humans.
Image courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of these, 774 died. In the United States , only eight people had laboratory evidence of SARS-CoV infection. All of these people had traveled to other parts of the world with SARS. If transmission of SARS recurs, there are precautions you can take that apply to many infectious diseases. The most important is frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands and encourage people around you to cover their nose and mouth with their arm or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
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