Pandemic Flu: Are you Ready?

Some people scoff at the idea of the pandemic flu, they think that it can't ever happen.... again.

I think they also scoff because they all assume that the pandemic is the Avian flu (H5N1). They are sometimes referred to interchangeably because the Avian flu (if it ever mutated to spread from human to human) could become a pandemic, but not all pandemics are the Avian flu. What is a pandemic then? For a few examples consider these:

-Think back to the Black/Bubonic Plauge that was certainly a pandemic back in the Middle Ages.

-Now think back as recently as the 1918 pandemic flu. My great aunt was only 3 years old and she got this particular flu and she did not survive. So we have had a recent pandemic in this last century.

So what is a pandemic and how is it different from an epidemic and how is that different from an outbreak? Here is a definition I copied from wikipedia: An epidemic may be restricted to one locale (an outbreak), more general (an "epidemic") or even global (pandemic). These are the general differences between the three.

A video I watched on BYU-Idaho's streaming site (post is linked below) mentioned that the flu of 1918 was all over the US within 2 weeks of it's first reported cases on the east and west coasts. Imagine how fast it would spread in today's world with our modern transportation systems. It would not be unlikely to assume it could become an epidemic within an week of the first reported cases. If you've ever watched Fox's TV show "House, M.D." you can imagine what an episode dealing with an unknown pandemic would be like if it was all over the country within a week!

Entertainment aside, pandemics are serious business and to think that it can't happen again is to be unwise. Even in the face of possible bio-terrorism, it would be wise to be prepared and to know how and what is needed to take care of sick family members and friends so that you don't expose yourself to the dangers of a pathogen that your body does not have a defense for.

I decided to share information found on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's website about the pandemic flu with a group of sisters from my ward (congregation). I decided that if it was something the Church felt was important to post on their website, I would share it as well. Below are some links to some in depth information dealing with this subject:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Provident Living site - to download all 8 pdf files into one file, click on the link in the right hand side of the page that says, "Download all 8 pdf files combined",11666,8041-1-4414-1,00.html

This is the blog that my mom has read a lot about the pandemic flu on and she really likes all the things Carolyn Nicholaysen discusses:

This is a link to the video found on BYU-Idaho's website about preparing for a possible pandemic. It give some general information and is a good introduction to the pandemic if you haven't ever heard of or read much of it.

Some good notes that were shared the night we had our meeting (31 July) are below. I found them to be most helpful in even knowing how to be prepared for the flu/cold season coming up from October -March. Now that I have Tips Jr., I want to do all I can to keep him safe from RSV, and some of these ideas are just as applicable to keeping your family healthy during the cold/flu season as they are for a pandemic.

- RSV can cling to clothes, so during RSV season, change your clothes when you get home. When the sister shared this, it made me think of a House episode I had recently watched. A high number of babies in the maternity ward were getting really sick and they couldn't figure out what it was that was making them sick. After one of the babies died during treatment, they figured out exactly what it was that was affecting the babies so they saved the rest of the sick babies. Then, House is sitting up on the maternity ward at the end of the episode and he hears this really bad coughing sound. He looks over and sees one of the hospital workers/volunteers who is this old woman pushing a cart around with all these stuffed animals for the new babies, and she sneezes or coughs and the germs get into the fibers of the stuffed animals and then the animal is given to the new baby who because they don't have an immune system, they get sick and their parents do not.

-a really basic one that I didn't think of is to use lotion everytime you wash your hands. When you are washing your hands a lot during the cold/flu/RSV season (or during a pandemic or epidemic), your hands will get really dry an cracked. If you use lotion every time, then your hands won't get cracked and open your body up to yet another infection. This one is really important to me because just having a baby and washing my hands after every diaper change has really affected my eczema-stricken hands and they will crack open quite often if I don't keep them lotioned up.

-during an epidemic or pandemic (or if you really are being cautious during the cold/flu season), create and keep a 'space bubble' of 6 feet around yourself so that you aren't in close contact with others who may be infected or if you are infected so you don't infect others (you can be contagious for a couple days before you ever show symptoms of the disease)

-keep anti-viral tissues on hand although I do know a woman who had an allergic reaction to the anti-viral tissues Kleenex makes, so be sure to find out before-hand if you have a reaction to them or not. You don't want to add an allergic reaction on top of a serious illness.

- wear at least the minimum level of respiratory protection which is a surgical mask or peferably an N95 respirator (the N95 respirator is like a triple-layer surgical mask, not like a gas-mask which is what I thought it was before I saw one). You can wear a mask three times unless it gets wet or you have been in close contact with an infected person, then you need to discard it (follow the procedures as outlined in the Pandemic Planning pdf file).

There were many more items that were interesting or good information to know, but we did not have time to discuss them. This really is something that you need to print out and study up on yourself because if a pandemic ever does break out, you will need to be the one prepared, especially if quarantines are put into place.

Please feel free to post comments about anything else you may have learned about preparing yourself and your family for a pandemic. We all love to learn from each other!


disillusioned said…
Now that I have a nephew with an interstitial lung disease--who gets respiratory and other infections far too easily--and needs to stay out of the hospital--it's made me/us more germaphobe than we as a family already were.

Growing up, for example--none of my sisters and I ever shared the following:

1. We NEVER shared the same towels--even my parents didn't. Sharing towels now turns my stomach. Mainly this was cause I had a sister develop mono at a very early age...who knows why (water fountain?)--but this was one of the number one things the doctors suggested we never do.

2. We never shared combs/brushes. Hello---ever heard of lice? Great way to avoid sharing it!

3. We all always had our own toothbrushes AND toothpaste. My parents were very frustrated when we were little and my dad was working as a custodian--cause if one of us (or he) brought home a germ, we all got it. Then they figured out that it was cause we all were sharing the same toothpaste in order to save money. Well, in reality, it wasn't saving money cause we were ALWAYS going to the doctor for the germs we shared. Avoid sharing floss too!

3. A recent study (I think it was discussed in the NYTimes--and published in the American Journal of Medicine) found that when at the dr's office--or ESPECIALLY at the hospital, DOCTORS and NURSES are notorious for sharing their germs. How, you ask? Rings, ties, and other jewelry. Ties were actually found to be some of the germiest things a body could wear (including compared to underwear). Why? Well, ties are usually made out of silk, and have to be dry cleaned--which means they're usually NEVER cleaned--cause unless they get stained, no one ever gets them cleaned. And, ties, rings, and jewelry are often touched by the wearers. SO--the article suggested that when in the hospital, if trying to avoid secondary (or initial) infection--to either ask the dr's to remove their jewelry and ties, or for physicians to not wear them at all (or wash their freaking hands before touching a patient!) Name tags and stethescopes were also found to be germ carriers--think about it. Does a dr's personal stethscope ever get sanatized? So--watch it--and watch it with your kids. If your afraid of infection--perhaps demanding a list of items the dr's NOT wear would be appropriate!

Hope those help :)

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