Pandemics describe epidemics, or an outbreak of an infectious disease, that spreads through the populations across a large region or worldwide. They are significant for contingency operations when both operational and technical staff may either be infected or may be called upon to care for their families and friends.
Contingency planning for ANS also needs to be re-evaluated in the context of recent world events ranging from security threats to possible pandemics. Pandemics create particular problems for any plans that involve the movement of staff. It is often necessary to isolate groups of co-workers to help minimise the risks of transmitting the disease. Moving staff from an air traffic control facility that had already suffered an outbreak might well endanger the health of workers at an ‘aiding’ unit. Hence, shared regional solutions and centralised facilities that require staff to move from an affected centre would not provide ideal solutions to pandemic contingencies.
There are fears that an animal influenza virus might combine with a human influenza virus (in a bird, pig or a human) to create a sub-type that was both highly contagious and highly lethal in humans. At present the influenza strain remains very inefficient in terms of human to human transmission. Concerns over the potential threats posed by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1 (Swine flu) and H5N1 (Avian influenza) have prompted several ANSPs to develop specialist plans for dealing with pandemics. These plans are, typically, structured around the WHO Pandemic phases.