A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, such as a new form of influenza.
With increasing globalization and the ability for people to travel to any country in the world in the span of a single day, there is always the potential for a new infectious disease to be introduced to Hawaii.
Notable historical pandemics have included the 1918 Spanish flu and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. While natural barriers effectively prevent many diseases from reaching Hawaii, thousands of visitors arrive each day from all around the world, so continued vigilance is essential.
During public health emergencies, the Disease Outbreak Control Division (DOCD) works with many partners at the federal, state, and local levels to protect the public’s health. In the event of a pandemic, the Medical Reserve Corps may be called upon to provide volunteers and assist with emergency operations. As the Department of Health and the State of Hawaii have made preparing for an influenza pandemic a top priority, DOCD regularly updates Hawaii’s pandemic preparedness plans for when the next global epidemic occurs.
In recent years, DOCD and the Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in scaling up prevention efforts during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic and by conducting educational efforts during the Ebola and Zika epidemics, which ended in 2016.
Last reviewed March 2019