NEARLY half of Bendigo's population could be infected and 1060 people could die in a severe influenza outbreak.
But that's the worst case scenario for a pandemic no-one's prepared for, a new planning document by central Victorian governments says.
The figures are based off of the Spanish flu pandemic that swept the world from 1918 to 1919 and the new document is part of a guide for central Victorian councils.
The document will go to the Central Goldfields Shire Council to be endorsed this week.
"The plan has been written for influenza pandemic, however it could be adapted to all types of communicable disease pandemics," the document says.
It outlines how a "Northern Victorian Emergency Management Cluster" of councils including Bendigo's, Castlemaine's, Maryborough's and Loddon's would react during a pandemic.
Cases of caronavirus continue to spread worldwide.
China saw a rise in its confirmed cases on Saturday, with more cases in Japan, North Korea and outside Asia, Australian Associated Press has reported.
The virus is the latest in a line of pandemics that spread rapidly in part because people have built up no immunity.
Early research out of China suggests the new coronavirus spreads much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, according to research published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Australia has shut down borders with China in a bid to limit the spread of that infection but has been touched by pandemics in recent decades, including 2009's H1N1 outbreak.
That strain of influenza emerged in Mexico and spread around the world, with 37,636 recorded Australian cases and 191 deaths, the document says.
So, how would councils handle an outbreak here?
While it is hard to predict an influenza pandemic with certainty, the document stresses that authorities' prepararedness could have dramatically curtailed the Spanish flu's spread from 40 per cent of the population to 10 per cent.
It could also drive down work absenteeism from 50 to as low as 30 per cent and stop wider disruptions spreading out as long as two years.
In Bendigo, the infection rate would be more like 11,004 and 133 deaths.
The document notes that pressure on health services would be more intense than that seen in a normal flu season.
"The level of impact may be similar to the 1957 Asian influenza," it says citing an outbreak in which between 20 and 70 per cent of people were infected, but where death rates were low.
However, central Victorian councils would also need to deal with other issues, including managing more mental health cases.
"Chaos, confusion, distress and trauma triggered by public health threats and emergencies can place enormous stress on the coping abilities of even the healthiest people," the document says.
It notes people could develop mental health challenges even if they, family or friends are not affected.
"These mental health effects may be long lasting," the document reads.
Cases of family violence could also spike, though the document makes it clear disasters are no excuse for such acts.
"During emergencies, it is common for people to lapse into traditional gender roles of men as the protectors and women as protected," it reads.
"This is damaging to both genders, and the (councils are) committed to promoting the involvement of both men and women in all aspects of the response and recovery stage."
The cluster of councils want to plan support for victims of family violence ahead of any outbreak and dispel the idea that it is an acceptable response to stress and trauma.
It would also tailor risk and recovery information to both men and women should an outbreak occur.
Managing an outbreak could become the responsibility of an influenza pandemic committee, headed by a senior council officer overseeing community efforts to limit the spread of any virus, including to keep services running as needed.
Depending on what breaks out, it could encourage people to minimise physical contact and avoid public gathering spaces.
Councils would also need to think about how they could help anyone isolated in their own homes, particularly those who cannot rely on family and friends for assistance, the document notes.
While councils would not lead recovery responses, the plan notes they will play a key role because they are so strongly connected to the community.
- With Australian Associated Press