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What Are Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks?

Antiviral Medications for Treatment and Prevention

If available, prescription antiviral drugs may help with both treatment and prevention of influenza. These may come in a pill, liquid, or inhaled form. Four influenza antiviral drugs are approved in the United States, although some viruses are resistant to one or more of these: 

If you are already sick and it has been less than 48 hours since the onset of symptoms, an antiviral drug may help by:

  • Making you feel better faster
  • Keeping you from getting seriously ill
  • Preventing serious complications

If you have been exposed to influenza, an antiviral drug may be about 70%-90% effective in preventing illness.

Pandemic Preparation

A pandemic causes economic and social disruption due to high rates of illness and worker absenteeism.  This is especially true if absenteeism affects key services such as transportation, communication, or power.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Plan ahead, in case services are disrupted. This is especially important if someone in your family has special needs. For example, make sure to have a way to fill needed prescriptions.
  • See if you can work from home in the event of a pandemic.
  • Plan home learning activities if school is closed.
  • Store extra water, food, and supplies.
  • Stay as healthy as you can by getting adequate rest, managing stress, eating right, and continuing to exercise.
  • Assist seniors in your community.

For more information on influenza pandemic preparedness, go to You can also call the CDC Hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or email questions to


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 23, 2014

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