Influenza Surveillance Program
Influenza, also known as the flu, is transmitted from person to person through sneezes, coughs and touching with hands that were sneezed or coughed into without being washed afterwards.
It is usually a relatively mild disease in healthy adults and older children, but it can be serious in the elderly and very young, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses or other health problems. People in these high-risk groups should be vaccinated every year against influenza. Health care workers and others who live with or care for high-risk individuals also should be vaccinated yearly.
How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated. Please visit the Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness page for more information.
Visit the Immunization Program's Influenza Vaccinations page for more information on how to get immunized. For quick and easy reference to the nearest flu shot clinic available to you, call Nurse Advice New Mexico at 1-877-725-2552.
Yearly averages in the United States:
- 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu.
- More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.
- 36,000 people die from flu illness.
“Bird flu” is a non-scientific term that refers to a specific virus (H5N1) that has been present in domestic birds in Asia since 1997. It has caused outbreaks of disease in poultry throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe. Millions of birds have died or have been culled due to the disease.
For more information please visit the Avian Influenza Information page.
A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza A virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population; the virus causes serious illness and spreads easily from person-to-person worldwide.
For more information please visit the Pandemic Influenza Awareness page.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Pandemic Influenza?
Influenza, or flu, is a viral infection of the lungs. There are two main types of flu virus, A and B. Each type includes many different strains and new strains emerge periodically. Flu outbreaks occur most often in late fall and winter.
Pandemic flu is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears in humans, causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide.
What’s the difference between a pandemic and a seasonal outbreak of flu?
A pandemic is caused by a new influenza A virus that most people have never been exposed to, so everyone is susceptible. Pandemic strains also often cause more serious disease. Because of this, past flu pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption and economic loss.
Seasonal outbreaks of flu are caused by strains of flu virus similar to those of past years. Some people may have built up immunity, and there is also a vaccine for each year’s flu season.
When is the next flu pandemic expected?
Three pandemics occurred in the 20th century, all of which spread around the world within one year of being detected. Of these, the pandemic of 1918-1919 was the most severe, with 50 million or more deaths worldwide.
No one can predict when a pandemic might occur, but many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the next one arises. Experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 Avian (bird) Flu situation in the Middle East, Europe and Asia very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily and widely from person to person.
What is New Mexico doing to prepare for Pandemic Influenza?
In New Mexico, pandemic flu planning efforts have been underway for several years. A draft pandemic flu response plan was developed in 2007 that gives New Mexico a template for dealing with this issue.
Recently, the New Mexico Department of Health has begun efforts to develop a coordinated pandemic flu operational plan that will focus on continuity of operations of all state government agencies, protecting citizens and sustaining critical infrastructure and key resources in the event of a pandemic.
NMDOH is leading public information efforts to raise awareness of this issue and to help New Mexicans better understand the complex issues that will arise if pandemic flu becomes a reality. These include prioritizing who will receive scarce medications and vaccine supplies and how a pandemic will impact the daily activities we all take for granted such as having to close schools or cancel sporting events and large public gatherings during a pandemic.
Pandemic Influenza Operational Plan
A pandemic has the potential to result in large numbers of deaths (estimated between 20,000-25,000 deaths in New Mexico), overwhelming the New Mexico’s mortuary resources, including morgue capacity, medical investigative and forensic personnel, and services available for disposition of bodies. A pandemic is highly likely to produce large numbers of sick people that require care at the same time.
The initial pandemic phase will last 8 – 17 weeks and will likely be followed by a series of pandemic influenza waves each also lasting several weeks to months, continuing for up to two years after the initial outbreak.
A pandemic will seriously impact and overwhelm every healthcare, social and economic structure on a global scale simultaneously. Resources and assistance from all federal, state, and local governments will be severely limited or not available.
A severe pandemic will have major consequences for the local, national, and global economy. Due to the large numbers of affected individuals and social disruption, production of goods and services will suffer. In New Mexico, it is estimated that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could drop 5.42% ($3.7 billion loss).
Widespread illness in New Mexico’s communities will also increase the likelihood of sudden and significant workforce shortages in critical community infrastructure services, such as: military personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, utility workers, transportation workers, human services 11 and those agencies that provide essential infrastructure services to the public. Employee absenteeism rates will range from 25-50% for several weeks or months.
Despite medical and health care intervention during a pandemic influenza outbreak, people will die due to limitations in medical resources and available healthcare workforce.
The purpose of the Pandemic Influenza Operational Plan is to:
- Reduce mortality
- Reduce morbidity
- Minimize social and economic disruption
The threat of pandemic is not as much a question of if, but rather a question of when.
Healthcare providers should also read the Pandemic Influenza Operational Plan to learn more details about strategies to reduce pandemic influenza-related morbidity, mortality, and social disruption.
Specific Sector Planning Checklists
Are you prepared for a flu outbreak or pandemic? The guidance, checklists, and resources on the Pandemic Influenza Planning & Preparedness page are intended to help you create a plan for any of the following sectors.
- State and Local Government
- Workplace, including law enforcement, correctional facilities, businesses, health insurers, travel Industry
- Individuals and Families
- Schools, including child care and preschool, school districts (K-12), colleges and universities
- Health Care, including home health care services, medical offices and clinics, emergency medical services and medical transport, hospitals, long-term care and other residential facilities
- Community Organizations, including faith-based
Pandemic Influenza Resources
- Pandemic Influenza Resources
- Influenza Activity & Surveillance
- Preparedness and Community Response to Pandemics Online Course
- Epidemic and Pandemic Global Alert and Response
- Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management
- Pandemic Influenza Planning & Preparedness
Healthcare Provider Information & Materials
Disease and Clinical Considerations
- Guidance for Clinicians on the Use of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests
- People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications
- Guidance for Clinicians on the Use of RT-PCR and Other Molecular Assays for Diagnosis of Influenza Virus Infection
Considerations for Obstetric Health Care Providers
Influenza Control Guidelines
- Infection Control in Health Care Facilities
- Influenza Antiviral Medications: Summary for Clinicians
- Interim Guidance for Influenza Outbreak Management in Long-Term Care Facilities
- Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings