A pandemic is the rapid spread of infectious disease to a large number of people in a short time on a scale that crosses international boundaries. The World Health Organization WHO has a 6 stage classification for the process. In the UK, the Government estimates that in the case of pandemic flu up to half of the population may become infected with up to 750,000 additional deaths (that is deaths that would not have happened over the same period of time had a pandemic not taken place (UK Gov, 2013). The UK Influenza Preparedness Strategy (2011) describes the Governments strategic approach.
UK - High Risk for a pandemic but well prepared
Global Risk Analysts Maplecroft have rated the UK as 'extreme risk' for the spread of influenza while at the same time assessing that the UK is among the ten countries with the highest capacity to contain a pandemic should one occur. This is a spread model for influenza by Imperial College London (2006)
Disease modelling often takes into account the role of air travel in spreading illness; for example Centre of Disease Modelling (CDM) at the York Institute for Health Research.
ASSESS your risk to encounter an infectious disease
overall risk in the UK is low for most infectiuous diseases but it is important you stay informed (i.e. healthmap.org). If you travel, however, the situation may be very different.
get knowledgeable on the many different emerging infectious diseases and be critical of which sources you trust. There is a lot of scare mongering out there in the news and on certain websites also with regards to superbugs and drug resistance. Bacteria and viruses are constantly evolving but there is also good news in that new vaccines and new classes of drugs are being developped constantly (i.e. Science Daily).
if you travel, be aware of infectious diseases currently impacting your destination for example WHO country profiles, GOV.UK Foreign Travel Advice, CDC Destinations List
Business Continuity Planning also should consider the impacts of a pandemic. For example, see the Personnel Today article "Ebola - should employers prepare?" Other Business resources include Flu.gov (US) advice on Business Planning for Pandemic Flu with guidance for Employers and Employees as well as wider communities.
2. PREPARE for an outbreak of an infectious disease
staying healthy and fit contributes substantially to having a 'tough' immune system - your best first line of defence
vaccination or preventative medications are available for some diseases; ask your healthcare professional for advice
know about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), biosafty levels (Wiki, HSE), and proper procedures for donning and doffing (YouTube playlist) if you anticipate coming into direct contact with an dangerous infectious disease