Diseases-Avian (Bird) Flu


Inter-pandemic Phase

Low risk of human cases


New virus in animals, no human cases

Higher risk of human cases


>Pandemic alert

No or very limited human-to-human transmission


New virus causes human cases

Evidence of increased human-to-human transmission



Evidence of significant human-to-human transmission



Evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission


Experts at WHO and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred. WHO uses a series of six phases of pandemic alert as a system for informing the world of the seriousness of the threat and of the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities.

The designation of phases, including decisions on when to move from one phase to another, is made by the Director-General of WHO.

Each phase of alert coincides with a series of recommended activities to be undertaken by WHO, the international community, governments, and industry. Changes from one phase to another are triggered by several factors, which include the epidemiological behavior of the disease and the characteristics of circulating viruses.

The world is presently in phase 3: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainable among humans.

Facts to Consider

·         This is unlike the common flu that we experienced during the winter months of each year; however the methods of transmission are the same.  

·         The Avian Influenza is most similar to the Spanish Flu (1918-1919). During this period, the highest number of recorded deaths in recent history and due to an influenza was experienced throughout the world.

·         The target group of the Spanish Flu was the under 35 age group and the same has been true for the Avian Flu; however no one will be immune to this virus and those in community leadership, ministry, and medical roles may have high exposure rates. 

·         Typically this type of flu will move in six-week waves through a community with two to three waves occurring over many months. These communities will, likely, have public assembly including schools and church services will be curtailed during these waves and in the worse case everyone confined to home except critical infrastructure.

·         All elective surgery will be curtailed at the hospitals as hospitals staffs will shrink due to contracting the avian flu and taking care of family members who have it. 

·         There will be such a load on the medical and public health systems that flu triage centers will be established in the community to address persons who are becoming sick and their care.

·         For those that contract the avian flu the death rate has been over fifty percent.  Therefore the      

·         There is no certainty that the vaccine being manufactured will be effective against an outbreak as the virus is very active with its mutations and has become stronger in its ability to infect new types of animals.

·         There are many roles that Methodists will be call of to become the hands and feed - care giving; special needs community; food preparation, distribution, and /or POD's (Points of Distribution); and many more.

·         The only positive factor in this picture is for the individual to learn how to prevent the spread of this virus and to change and use these information to the advantage of their work and natural family and themselves. Preparation now many save the life of your child or one of your children or even you. 

Church Planning Document      


Most people are familiar with seasonal influenza, or as it is more commonly called, "the flu." The virus makes hundreds of thousands of people sick every year. Seasonal influenza can be extremely dangerous for some, particularly individuals whose immune systems have been weakened by age or illness. But for most healthy people, the flu is usually not life- threatening.

Pandemic influenza is another matter. Pandemic flu occurs when a new strain of influenza emerges that can be transmitted easily from person to person and for which humanity has little or no natural immunity.  In the case of an influenza pandemic, the virus spreads rapidly through the global community, making millions sick, stressing healthcare systems and potentially killing millions of people worldwide.

While the next global pandemic hasn't materialized yet, stories of a potential "bird flu" outbreak still make the headlines. Influenza is a threat that isn't going away and one that needs to take seriously.

What is Influenza and Pandemic?

Influenza is an infectious disease caused by a virus. Some strains of influenza affect humans exclusively, while others occur naturally in birds or other mammal species.  Some flu viruses infect multiple species.  Unfortunately, new influenza viruses are constantly being produced by genetic mutation.

The well publicized "bird flu", for example, is an avian influenza caused by a virus that occurs naturally in birds.  In 1997, an influenza outbreak occurred in Hong Kong when a strain of bird flu infected 18 people, raising concerns about the virus's spread from birds to humans.  About half the people who caught this strain of influenza died.  Scientists worry about viruses like this one that could spread very quickly and have a high mortality rate.  Fortunately, in the Hong Kong outbreak, the virus was not easily transmitted from human to human through something as simple as a sneeze, for example, and transmission from birds to people was rare. 

Historical Influenza Outbreaks

Historical records show that influenza pandemics occur with some regularity.  About 30 influenza pandemics have been recorded; three of which occurred in the last century.

Pandemic Death Toll Since 1900 is as follows.  

 Pandemic Event 

 Estimated U.S. Fatalities

 Estimated Worldwide Fatalities



 50+ million



 1-2 million




The worst of these pandemics occurred in 1918 at the end of World War I with the Spanish Flu. This virus strain was unusual in that it killed many young adults and otherwise healthy victims. People without symptoms were struck suddenly and, within hours, were too feeble to walk.  Many died the next day.

I was six and living on a farm when the Spanish Flu hit.  Everyone in the family got sick.  No one was well enough to cook so Mama opened cans of fruit and we lived off that until she got better.  The preacher came into the yard and hollered, "Are you all O.K.?  Papa responded that we were and thanked him for coming.  The preacher said, "I don't want to come in because this is really bad stuff and I am afraid of it.?  MGR

My brother signed up for the Army and they shipped him to Texas for basic training.  The flu swept through the camp and he died.  His body was shipped back by train and we opened the container outside to reduce the possibly of anyone catching the flu.  RYN

The illness was so prevalent in some areas that most everyday life activities were stopped due to illness, death, and to prevent further spread of the virus. Some communities closed all stores or required customers to place their orders outside the store for filling. Local governments in the United States held that any type of gathering of people, with "the mixing of bodies and sharing of breath in crowded rooms," was dangerous. Nonessential meetings were prohibited. Saloons, dance halls, and cinemas were closed and public funerals prohibited since they were deemed "unnecessary."  Health care systems were overwhelmed with many communities reporting that there were no health care workers to tend the sick and insufficient able bodied grave diggers to bury the dead.

Potential Impact to Churches

The impact of an influenza pandemic on churches could be substantial. A serious outbreak would cause significant absenteeism among staff, challenging the church's ability to remain open and to continue to minister within the community. Traditional church services would be dramatically altered as human contact would be limited and mass gatherings cancelled. 

Many "at-risk" populations which the church traditionally serves, such as children, elderly, and the homeless, may be among the hardest hit by the virus.  Economically-disadvantaged and single parent households may struggle to make ends meet if they must stay home to care for a loved one or if schools and businesses are ordered closed.  As local governments plan to cope with a pandemic, Methodist should be engaged in planning and preparedness to support emergency response efforts.

In addressing these issues, one might consider the following:

Human Resources

- Establish mandatory staff leave for ill employees (or those caring for ill family members).  This will reduce the possibility of spreading the infection among healthy co-workers.

- Adopt "leave" policies that do not penalize workers for absenteeism during a pandemic when it is related to personal illness or care for sick family members. 

- Be prepared for heavy absenteeism in jobs that interact with "at-risk" populations, such as children, the elderly, or homeless.  Workers may fear that working with these groups places them at a higher risk for exposure to infection.

Church Services

- Be ready to temporarily suspend physical contact, including shaking hands and hugs, as part of church services.

- Limit mass gatherings.  This may include canceling Sunday services, weekday events at the church, weddings, and funerals.

- Devise alternate methods of providing spiritual care, particularly to those who have lost loved ones due to the illness.  This may include offering church services via the Internet or television and creating phone networks of prayer partners.

Social Services

- Develop contingency plans to care for dependent populations, including those in resident care facilities, such as homeless shelters, assisted living, and ARC facilities.  Develop sanitary practices to reduce the spread of infection within these facilities and procedures to address the needs of sick individuals.

- Be prepared to provide financial aid to the poor who are unable to work and need emergency income for housing, medicine and other essential needs.

What Can I Do To Prepare?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised that some of the best ways to prepare for a pandemic are the same steps to prepare for other emergencies.  Stay informed and build a family disaster preparedness kit with the supplies your family will need during an emergency.

As a church leader, educate others.  The Bible says "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing."  (1 Peter 5:2).  One of the duties of a shepherd is to warn the flock under his care of danger.  Educate your congregation and your community about the truth and myths of pandemic flu and encourage them to develop their own emergency plan.

Finally, remember that influenza, like many other illnesses, is primarily spread by human to human contact.  Washing your hands frequently, particularly after shaking other people's hands, can significantly reduce the spread of the disease.  Avoid sharing personal care items, such as a drinking straw.  Cover your mouth when you sneeze, but if you use your hand, wash it immediately.  Too often people won't and every surface they touch next becomes contaminated. 

Following these steps will protect you not just from influenza, but a myriad of other germs and infections.

It is difficult to predict when the next influenza pandemic will occur, or its severity.  But wherever and whenever a pandemic does start, it places everyone around the world at risk.  During an outbreak, early identification of the virus and limiting the spread of the virus will be critical to saving lives. As President George Bush said in a November 1, 2005 speech on the nation's pandemic flu strategy, "A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire: If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage; if allowed to smolder undetected it can grow to an inferno that spreads quickly beyond our ability to control it.