I work in the health care system. Yesterday, at work, there were meetings on the upcoming Avian Flu pandemic. We were told its not a matter of if but when. Although there is no determination of the severity at the moment, it is best to prepare for the worst.
It does not help that I am a worrier, that is one who likes to sit and fret about matters rather than deal with them. The antidote to worry is action. So this post is to help me combat my natural tendency by preparing myself to be prepared.
A pandemic occurs when the genes of an influenza virus radically mutate allowing it to quickly spread to the whole world because of the lack of immunity. There have pandemics in the 20th century, the worst was the Spanish Flu in 1918. The Asian Flu in 1957 and Hong Kong Flu in 1968 were of less severity.
"Experts at WHO (World Health Organization)and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century's three pandemics occurred."
Current flu vaccines are not effective as these specific genetic strains have not been seen before.
We had a family meeting yesterday evening to discuss the matter. I had already written down a few ideas and we brainstormed a bit. Everyone was calm but my anxious face prompted my Daughter to say, "Don't panic, Mom." Afterwards, my Son said he was scared and we told him that we were talking about it so that we could prevent ourselves from getting it.
Influenza is spread by droplets from coughing, sneezing or even talking. The length of the virus' survival varies according to the surface it is on but it only survives 5 minutes on the hands. Frequent hand washing is an effective way to reduce transmission. A simple way to cover the mouth when coughing is to cough into the crook of your arm. Then you aren't contaminating your hand with your own droplets and you are not bringing possible viral contaminants into your own mouth.
Because the virus enters the body through the eyes, mouth and nose, it is important not to touch face withoug washing hands first which I have a habit of doing. It was suggested to me to use a tissue to touch the face with.
Having a healthy lifestyle strengthens the immune system. There is a man I know who had a terrible bout of pneumonia last winter. He told me that he learned his lesson. He now eats more healthy, gets enough sleep and takes a multivitamin. I know that he also exercises regularly and is a non-smoker. Having a positive attitude (probably not being stress out about this pandemic) is also helpful.
Stocking up on health supplies ( buy the N95 masks now), non-perishables and bottled water is recommended as it may be difficult to get to the store if sick and store supplies might be low. As well, it best to avoid crowds in a pandemic.
Education and awareness are the first steps.
Web pages to visit:
World Health Organization- global influenza preparedness plan
The Hill Feb 1, 2006
National Public Radio Nov 05
People's Daily Online Jan 06