Are you prepared for a Pandemic Flu?
Pandemic influenza (flu) is a worldwide outbreak of a new flu virus for which there is little or no immunity (protection) in the human population. Scientists and health professionals are concerned that the current virus in birds (avian flu) may develop into the next human pandemic. A pandemic flu can spread easily from person-to-person, cause serious illness and death. When a new pandemic flu spreads, it creates a public health emergency. A pandemic flu lasts longer, may make more people seriously ill, and may cause more deaths than any other health crisis in our time.
Historically, there have been 3 pandemics of influenza in the 20th century:
-1918 influenza pandemic caused at least 675,000 deaths in the United States and up to 50 million deaths worldwide.
-1957 influenza pandemic caused at least 70,000 deaths in the United States and 1-2 million deaths worldwide.
-1968 influenza pandemic caused approximately 34,000 deaths in the United States and 700,000 deaths worldwide.
A long-lasting and widespread outbreak of the disease could mean changes in many areas of our lives. Our colleges and universities might need to temporarily close. Public transportation could be limited and air flights may be cancelled. Because so many people will be ill, many employees will not be able to go to work and many businesses and public services may have to close or limit hours.
It is important to plan ahead. Federal, state and local governments are taking steps to better prepare for a respond to a pandemic. Individuals also need to take action to be better prepared.
This issue of the Health Matters Newsletter is dedicated to giving you suggestions to prepare your family and home if a pandemic flu were to arise.
What is Avian Flu?
Avian influenza (flu) is also known as bird flu. This non-human flu virus causes a very contagious infection among birds that can be spread to domesticated birds such as chickens and ducks causing them to become very ill and possibly causing death.
Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but this latest outbreak of bird flu has infected people, mainly in Southeast Asian countries. When the illness infects people, it is very serious and over half the people sick with bird flu have died. It has not been found in birds or people in the United States as of the Winter 2006.
People get bird flu from contact with infected birds. Infected birds shed the virus in saliva and feces droppings. A person can catch bird flu when an infected chicken coughs or sneezes onto a person’s face or when a person breathes in bird dropping particles. People may also get the virus by eating undercooked infected poultry.
Scientists and health professionals are concerned about bird flu because the current virus in birds may change and develop into a virus that will spread easily from one person to another causing the next pandemic in humans. Because it is not possible to prevent or stop a pandemic once it begins, the pandemic flu can cause serious illness and death.
There is no vaccine for bird flu. To protect yourself against the bird flu, health officials recommend you take the same steps you would to protect yourself against any other flu or cold.
If you were exposed to bird flu, you could have symptoms for up to 14 days. Symptoms usually include the flu-like symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, shortness of breath and even eye infections. Serious cases of bird flu cause life-threatening breathing problems including pneumonia. It can even cause death.
Healthcare providers will treat patients depending on their symptoms. Depending on how serious the symptoms, treatment may include supportive care, use of anti-viral medicines or even hospitalization.
What you can do ?
Preparing for a pandemic flu can reduce your chances of getting sick and help limit the spread of the disease.
1) Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, exercising daily, getting enough rest and drinking fluids.
2) Get a seasonal flu shot annually
3) Stay informed by keeping up to date on a possible pandemic by listening to radio and television, reading the news and checking out the web.
Common sense can help stop the spread of influenza germs
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol based rub.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Put tissues in the trash and wash your hands immediately.
- If you get sick, stay in your residence hall or home and away from others as much as possible. Do not attend classes.
- Don’t send sick children to school.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Preparing your home for an Emergency
As many as 1 in 4 people could get sick during a pandemic, with many of them seriously ill. Services and supplies we count on everyday may not be available. Every individual and family could be on their own, without care, for quite a while. This makes being prepared even more important.
Because everyday life may be different during a pandemic flu and services could be disrupted, make sure you have these items in your emergency preparedness kit.
1) Two weeks worth of food for you and your family. This should be food that does not need refrigeration. Foods like canned meats and fish, beans, soups, fruits, and dry goods like flour, salt, and sugar, are good choices.
2) Water stored in sealed, unbreakable containers. If water service is disrupted, plan on one gallon of water for each person for each day, for up to two weeks.
3) Two weeks worth of prescription medicines.
4) Two week’s worth of ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for each person in the house for fever and pain. A two week supply of cough medicine.
5) Rehydration Solution, for example Pedialyte for kids, Gatorade for adults and teens. See below for instructions to make a rehydration solution for adults and teens. For children, especially infants and toddlers, a store-bought solution is strongly recommended.
Rehydration Solution for Adults and Teens
4 cups of clean water
2 Tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
Mix all ingredients until the sugar disappears. You can drink the solution at room temperature. Do not boil the solution because high temperature decreases the effectiveness.
6) Cell phone and charger
7) Supply of face masks and plastic gloves. These will help protect you, especially if you are taking care of family members who are sick with the disease.
8) Disinfectants and chlorine bleach.
You can get more information about putting together a complete Emergency Preparedness Plan and Kit from the American Red Cross. Call 408-577-1000 or visit their website at www.redcross.org.
Learn more about Pandemic Flu
Keep up to date on a possible pandemic flu by listening to radio and television, and reading news stories about pandemic flu.
- Go to www.suny.edu/emergencyprepardness.com for more information and current updates, travel advisories and other pertinent information on campus closings, re-openings, etc
- Go to www.health.state.ny.us for New York State’s Pandemic Influenza Plan and general information about pandemic flu
- Go to www.cdc.gov for general information about pandemic flu and other health related information
- Go to www.redcross.org for all the information you will need to make your own emergency preparation plan.
- Go to www.pandemicflu.gov for updates on national and international pandemic flu.
For Travel Information and Warnings
- Go to www.cdc.gov/travel/destinat.htm for health related travel information
- Go to www.who.int/for health related travel information and international disease outbreak information.
- Go to http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html for general travel warnings.