What have we learned from previous pandemics?
Plan ahead and be prepared. Store food and medical supplies in your home. Have adequate savings to sustain your family in case you cannot work for an extended period of time. Keep alternate fuel supplies on hand and access to multiple methods of emergency communications. Learn basic nursing skills and practice strict hygiene habits now. Be prepared for mandatory social distancing - the limited frequency of and closeness of contact between individuals in a public setting. This means you'll need to conduct your own worship services and be prepared to have your children home from school for an extended period of time.
Consider how you can volunteer to help. Don't be afraid to help. In 1918 when officials and the media did not report the truth about what was happening, people became terrified of caring for relatives and taking food to neighbors too ill to feed themselves. Health care professionals even failed to respond to urgent calls for help out of fear. The affects of fear were as much a threat to communities as the virus that plagued them. Survivors of a flu virus become immune and will be our most valuable resource for help in subsequent waves because of their immunity.
What can you do now?
1. Store a 3 month supply of food for each person in your household. This should be sufficient to get you through two waves of a pandemic.
2. Store over the counter medications for pain, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory infections (coughing, sneezing, congestion, runny nose). Obtain and store properly a 3-month supply of all prescription medications you are currently taking.
3. Store at least a 2-week supply of water for each person in your household in case the water supply to your home is disrupted. At minimum, 1 gallon of water per person per day. 2 gallons of water per person per day would be better; one gallon for drinking and cooking and 1 gallon for hygiene.
4. Store fuel for alternate cooking, heating and light in case your local utilities are disrupted.
5. Establish an alternate way to communicate with others outside your household. For example, acquire hand-held, battery operated FRS (Family Radio Service) radios - an improved walkie talkie radio system. Urge friends, family & neighbors close by to acquire these so you can communicate with each other during an emergency.
6. Prepare to work from home.
7. Acquire life insurance in case the worst happens.
8. Help family and friends become prepared.
Limit the spread of Influenza during an outbreak
Practice self-protection methods as soon as an outbreak occurs. Also practice these methods anywhere an infection may enter the country, such as international airports and public places in border towns. Self-protection methods include the following:
1. Avoid shaking hands. Viruses can be transferred from infected individuals or from surfaces they have previously touched.
2. Wear a tight fitting surgical mask resistant to fluids or a respirator with an N95 rating (readily available in most home improvement centers). The flu virus is often transmitted through the air. Wear the mask or respirator at all times when you are in contact with individuals outside of your home. The masks can be hung to dry and reused unless they have been contaminated with body fluids or blood.
3. Wash your hands frequently. The flu virus can live up to two days on surfaces. You can spread the virus by touching those surfaces and then your mouth or eyes or other people before washing. Anti-bacterial soap or alcohol based hand cleaners are most effective as well as alcohol based hand sanitizers. Keep plenty on hand in your home. Take travel size hand sanitizers with you when you are in public places.
4. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. Infected droplets can be projected up to 15 feet in front of you and you are contagious 48 to 72 hours before symptoms appear.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to lessen the chance of infecting yourself.
6. Limit contact with people outside your home especially inside public spaces. Consider everyone as potentially infected. Practice social distancing by not going into public places and events as much as possible such as schools, churches, cultural events, sporting events, social activities and possibly even work. If you must venture into a public space, try to maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between you and other people. Remain at home if an outbreak in your community seems to be widespread.