A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity and for which there is no vaccine. Pandemic flu is very different from the seasonal flu that we experience every winter for which there is some level of immunity and vaccines are available.
Flu pandemics occurred in 1918, 1957 and 1968. Health officials are currently concerned about a strain of flu called H1N1 (also called the "swine flu"), that is currently affecting many countries. All countries, including the United States, are taking steps to take good care of sick people, and minimize the spread of the disease.
There are some things you can do to be prepared should a flu pandemic occur:
Prepare in the same way as you would for any disaster. Make sure you have an emergency plan, an emergency kit for your home, and a communications plan for your family.
Add to your disaster supply kit:
- Non-prescription drugs and other health remedies, including pain relieves, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins.
To limit the spread of germs and prevent infection:
- Teach your children to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
- Teach your children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or their sleeves.
- Keep your children home when they are sick.
- Practice what you preach.
- Stay healthy: Eat a balanced diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
Be aware of what is going on with regard to pandemic flu.
- If a pandemic should break out, listen to your state and local health officials and do what they say.
- Be prepared to help others in your family, your friends and your neighbors.
As in any major disaster, we would need each other.