The need for the Pandemic Influenza Storybook became evident as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) throughout the country for public health professionals involved with a variety of emergency response communications activities. The “Basic” CERC course debuted in 2002 and two additional modules have been added; “Leaders for Leaders” and “Pandemic Influenza”. The storybook is a resource tool for the latter module for certified CERC trainers and trainees. The online storybook contains narratives from survivors, families, and friends who lived through the 1918 and 1957 pandemics. Additionally, stories from the 1968 pandemic will be added to this resource as they become available.

“Complacency is enemy number one when it comes to preparing for another influenza pandemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “These stories, told so eloquently by survivors, family members, and friends from past pandemics, serve as a sobering reminder of the devastating impact that influenza can have and reading them is a must for anyone involved in public health preparedness.”

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide including an estimated 675,000 people in the United States, and it is one of the touchstones for today’s public health preparedness initiatives. To put it in perspective, that’s more people than all those who died (both military personnel and civilians) during World War I (1914–1918). T The 1957 Influenza Pandemic caused at least 70,000 U.S. deaths and 1–2 million deaths worldwide. Improvements in scientific technology made it possible to more quickly identify that pandemic when compared with the 1918 event. These first-person and family accounts contained herein provide an intimate, personal view of the 1918 and 1957 pandemics that goes beyond the staggering statistics associated with those events and, therefore, can help planners re-energize their efforts and fight preparedness fatigue and apathy.

The Pandemic Influenza Storybook is not a closed book; CDC will continue to accept stories and add them to the book at quarterly intervals.

Preparedness efforts for the next influenza pandemic are on-going in nearly every country of the world. Here in the United States, every state has a plan for addressing a pandemic influenza event. Become familiar with your state’s plan and know who the pandemic influenza coordinators are in your community.