A pandemic is a worldwide spread of a disease, such as influenza or coronavirus.

In Hawaii, thousands of visitors arrive from around the world each day, increasing the risk of new and emerging infectious diseases in the islands.

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Continued monitoring is essential. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) works alongside many federal, state, and local partners to protect the public’s health. The Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) and Disease Outbreak Control Division (DOCD), who monitor and respond to new and emerging outbreaks, have coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to scale up prevention and education efforts. Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) medical and non-medical volunteers may also be called to assist in an emergency response.

The Hawaii Pandemic Preparedness & Response Plan is being updated and will be available to the public soon. For more information, visit

Why health officials are concerned

Health officials worldwide believe pandemics will continue to become more frequent and more widespread in the coming years. In severe public health emergencies, many resources like hospital, fire, and police services are even more limited, including burn out.

While endemic conditions are limited to particular geographical areas (such as Zika or Ebola), pandemics are different from both these and the seasonal flu:

    1. Many people in many different areas will die; many more will get sick.
    2. Shortages of resources and services may make the islands especially vulnerable.
    3. The time it will take for human immunity and a vaccine to become available are unknown.


Reduce the risk of COVID-19: HERE 

Effects of COVID-19 in Hawaii: HERE

Past pandemics include the 1918 Spanish flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, and others.

Pandemic flu: A flu pandemic is a global outbreak that occurs when a new influenza A virus causes serious human illness and spreads easily from person to person.

Avian flu: Avian, or bird, flu occurs naturally among birds. All bird flu subtypes are influenza type A. There are many strains of avian flu viruses, some are more common than others.

Seasonal flu: These are the influenza viruses that circulate and infect people throughout the year. In many people, its symptoms are mild and last no more than a week. However, about 36,000 Americans die of seasonal influenza each year.

Influenza A: Influenza A viruses are found is many different animals, including ducks, chickens, whales, horses, seals, and dogs. Influenza A is primarily a respiratory disease, causing cough, congestion, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, and fever in most species it infects.

Influenza B: This virus circulates widely only among humans. It generally does not make people as sick as influenza A does.

Last reviewed January 2023