When was the last pandemic? | Coronavirus Covid-19

With the Coronavirus, Covid-19 now spreading faster in Europe than China where it originated, what makes a pandemic? How close are we to another? When was the last one, and why does the WHO get so worried about them? 

Microscopic image of the H1N1 virus

Seasonal influenza occurs every year – the virus changes each year and sadly causes thousands of deaths nationwide. With “normal” strains of influenza, many had some immunity to the circulating virus. This put a lid on the number of infections – and the virus’ virulence. With known strains, this is why we can use vaccines, particularly when protecting the vulnerable. If the strain is unknown – we have no vaccine, no vaccine means a much wider spread of the strain.  

The last pandemic was from early 2009 to late 201 – caused by the (H1N1)pdm09 virus, but what was so bad about it? This virus was different to other H1N1 viruses that were circulating at the time so treatments weren’t so straightforward. However, it also emerged that ⅓ of over 60s had antibodies against the virus. Scientists think that this was because of exposure to older H1N1 viruses they’d encountered. 


The outbreak began with the first case detected April 2009- in California. With global spread of the disease, a pandemic was declared by June. By that point, the virus had reached 74 countries with laboratory confirmed infections. Whether we can contain this virus remains to be seen. It’s important to remember that this virus is not worse than a bad cold in the majority of cases. Yes, a pandemic is arguably inevitable but most make a full recovery. Keep up to date with the UK government advice here.

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