Hamilton Health Sciences
Programs and Services

Pandemic Planning

St. Peter's is working closely with our health care partners and the City of Hamilton Department of Public Health and Social Services on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness. A pandemic influenza outbreak is a worldwide outbreak of a new influenza virus that spreads rapidly around the world. Historically, pandemics occur every 30 to 40 years and infectious disease experts warn that a global influenza pandemic is overdue. For more information, please read through the FAQ section below or visit the City of Hamilton's website.

What is Pandemic Influenza?

Pandemic means an outbreak of influenza or flu virus that quickly spreads around the world. The virus is highly contagious and the population will have little or no immunity to the new virus.

When was the last time we had a pandemic?

Pandemics occur every few decades. The last major pandemic was in 1918-1919, which killed an estimated 40 to 50 million people worldwide. The Asian Flu in 1957-1958 and the Hong Kong Flu in 1968-1969 were pandemics of lesser degrees.

What is Influenza and how is it spread?

Influenza or the flu is an acute (short-term) respiratory illness caused by a virus. It is spread easily from an infected person to others through coughing and sneezing. It is also spread by direct contact with contaminated surfaces or objects like unwashed hands, toys, eating utensils, etc.

What are the symptoms of influenza?

A true case of influenza typically starts with a headache, chills and cough, which are followed rapidly by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Children may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults.

How is a pandemic different from the typical flu season?

The ordinary flu occurs every year during the winter and affects up to about 10% of the population. For most people, it is an unpleasant but not life-threatening infection. Annual vaccination is available for individuals. The pandemic flu occurs about 3 times each century and at any time of the year. It may affect around 25% of the population and is a more serious infection.

What is the government of Canada and the province doing to prepare for a pandemic influenza?

To prepare for a pandemic emergency, both the government of Canada and the province of Ontario have developed plans. The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan details the national planning, monitoring, communications and response. The Ontario Health Pandemic Influenza Plan focuses on the provincial response and links with the national plan. Both plans attempt to reduce serious illness and deaths and societal disruption as a result of a pandemic.

What will be the results of a Pandemic Influenza?

Past pandemics have shown that a large number of people can be severely affected. It is estimated that one third of the workforce will be absent due to fear, illness, or to care for a child or ill family member. Emergency workers and front line health care workers will be in high demand.

How is the City of Hamilton preparing for a pandemic?

Public Health Services has developed a Hamilton Community Pandemic Plan. The goal of the plan is to ensure that the communication and response by public health, city departments and the local health care community is efficient, coordinated and clear.

During a pandemic, how can I get the most up-to-date information?

During a pandemic, the local media will be the best source of information, including: 900 CHML AM, Y108 FM, Country 95.3 FM, CH News and on the City Of Hamilton website.

In the event of a pandemic, will the City of Hamilton services be affected?

During a pandemic it is anticipated that city services will be affected. To get the most up-to-date information including cancellations and/or changes, please visit the City of Hamilton website or contact the City at 905-546-2424.

Is there a vaccine for the pandemic?

During a pandemic, the new flu virus will be different from the flu viruses we have had in the past. A new vaccine can only be made once the new flu virus has been identified. Once it has been identified it may take another 4 to 6 months to make a vaccine. When the vaccine becomes available, The Ministry of Health will distribute the new vaccine to local health units.

Will anti-viral medication be available during a pandemic?

The Federal Government is in the process of stockpiling anti-viral medication and developing a strategy for distribution to local Health Units.

What can I do to prepare for a Pandemic Influenza?

An individual can prepare for a pandemic influenza by:

  • Being informed. Know the difference between influenza and a cold. A true case of influenza typically starts with a headache, chills and cough, which are followed rapidly by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Children may have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults. 

  • Knowing proper hand washing and sneezing etiquette.

  • Staying healthy. Keep healthy by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

  • Receiving the annual influenza vaccine and if you are among the high risk group (elderly and those with chronic medical conditions) make arrangements to receive the pneumococcal vaccine.

  • Developing an individual preparedness plan addressing issues such as:

  • supplies - keep a small supply of groceries, cleaning products, medication, gasoline and money on hand
  • daycare or school closures
  • illness in the family
  • The Centre for Disease Control has developed the CDC Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families to ensure personal preparedness in the event of a pandemic.

    The City of Hamilton Emergency Management Program has developed an emergency preparedness guide to provide information regarding personal preparedness initiatives to assist you prior to and during an emergency.

    Additional Resources include:

    Pandemic Influenza Planning: A Guide for Individuals and Families

    Safe Canada - Government of Canada

    Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care - Telehealth: 1-866-797-0000 / TTY: 1-866-797-0007

    For more information, please contact Hamilton's Public Health Services Department at

    What you should know about a flu pandemic

Hamilton Health Sciences • Hamilton, Ontario • 905.521.2100

Disclaimer: Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) offers Google Translate to better facilitate access for our community. However, HHS makes no claims regarding the accuracy of translations. Any and all health information should be verified by a health care professional.