Preparing for a Pandemic

Community Emergency Response Team

What is a pandemic?

A pandemic is basically a global epidemic — an infectious disease that spreads rapidly to a large population in more than one continent.1 For example, influenza or ebola are highly contagious viruses. Two main features of any pandemic are:

  1. The virus is a new strain that has never infected people before, like the swine or avian flu in recent years, infecting a population which has no immunity to it.
  2. The infections spread on a global scale with a high mortality rate.2

Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to eight (8) hours. Your exposure to sick people can increase the possibility of catching the disease. During the winter season, viral infection increases due to the low humidity in the air. This allows the germs to remain airborne longer.3 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping a 6 foot buffer from sick people to cut down on the spread of disease.

Research shows anxiety and stress can weaken your immune system leaving you more vulnerable to infections.  Smoking cigarettes weakens the tiny disease-fighting hairs tucked inside the nasal passages and the lungs, which trap and dispose of germs. Drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time weakens the immune system as well as dehydrating a person reducing the nose and throat’s ability to trap germs in mucus.4

Seasonal flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing and/or sore throat
  • Runny of stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Swine or Avian Flu Symptoms include:

  • All the seasonal symptoms PLUS
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (exception – children)
  • Can be fatal

What to do when a pandemic is predicted?

Build a pandemic kit: to minimize germ/virus spread, care-givers should limit physical exposure to the contagious elements like body fluids.

  • Disposable hooded Tyvek suits with elastic wrists ankles and non-skid socks
  • Safety Goggles
  • N95-100 particulate respirator
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Liquid bandage spray protects against infection and helps wounds heal quicker
  • Anti microbial wipes to prevent the spread of germs and maintain  sanitary conditions
  • Tissue packs to contain mucus and sneezing and coughing spray
  • Trash bags for sanitary disposal of waste and used protective clothing
  • Antiseptic hand sanitizer gel can be used if access to good old soap and water isn’t available
  • Plastic sheeting is suggested to provide a separation between the sick and the not sick
  • Duct tape to use with the plastic sheeting

Acquire medication: to provide some comfort for fevers and congestion

  • Elderberry juice is a natural flu med, clinically proven to reduce the length of flu sickness – for a sick person: 1-3 Tbs every 4-6 hours; as an immune boost: 1-2 Tbs daily
  • Tylenol/ibuprofen for fever and aches and pain reduction 
  • Decongestants to provide comfort from coughs and colds; saline nasal spray

Food and supplies: to feed your family for the 90 days that it takes a pandemic to circle the globe, infect, kill, and then burn itself out from lack of susceptible hosts 

  • In addition to a variety of food for healthy people, include items that are easy to swallow and nutritious for the sick, like broths and jello.
  • Soap, disinfectants, rubbing alcohol, cleaning supplies
  • Extra bed linens, water proof mattress and pillow covers
  • Gasoline
  • Humidifiers

When to hunker down?

Pay attention to the news and other lines of communication in your community. When you learn that sickness is within 100 miles of your home, it is time to go into social isolation. Did you know that it takes less than 10% of key infrastructure workers calling in sick to disrupt delivery of utilities? That means no electricity. Are you prepared for that?

  • Isolation means no outside contact
  • Do not come within 20 feet of other people; be aware of any coughing or sneezing
  • Do not accept anything from anyone without 10 days of isolation; then sterilize
  • No grocery store for 90 days
  • No work – check on possibility of working from home
  • No school – get school work assignments for children to do at home
  • Don’t go to hospital except in case of immediate life threatening emergency
  • Be prepared for power grid to fail
  • Set up an isolation area for anyone who may become sick

What should be in an isolation room?

This should be in a separate building or outside in an RV, trailer, or tent. Remove all unnecessary items from the room. If someone exhibits symptoms, isolate them immediately. One person should be designated as the care giver. If there are two or more sick people, have them share a room and bathroom. Document the disease progress. If you have to keep the sick in the same dwelling, use the plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a barrier, floor t0 ceiling.

Isolation room contents: put these things in the isolation room and leave them there

  • Tissues
  • Trashcan with a lid and plastic liners
  • Plenty of water for the sick
  • Thermometer
  • Humidifier – extra moisture aids breathing
  • Face masks for the sick to protect care giver
  • Window fan for negative pressure and air circulation
  • Waste bucket

Wash all bedding and other clothing on the hottest setting. Wear gloves when handling contaminated items. Use disposable dishes and utensils. Use rubbing alcohol for sterilizing the sick room. Once infected with a flu virus a person is contagious  for up to 10 days. Protect yourself while caring for the sick by using protective clothing, masks and gloves. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and increase your vitamins to boost immune system.

References
1.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemic
2.  http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/what-is-pandemic
3.  http://www.livescience.com/32284-how-do-we-catch-the-flu.html
4.  http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20311978_2,00.html

Billie Nicholson, Editor
December 2014

This month’s issue includes:
  • During our conversations with Pearl Harbor Survivors, they continued to warn us of the importance of being prepared – on every level, from our national military down to each individual. During World War II, everyone sacrificed to insure that world peace would be restored.
  • Mama’s Last Gift ~ Who would expect 33 year old jelly to be any good? The jelly was firm and no crystallization or mold was apparent. A taste test confirmed the goodness within.
  • As you make your list and check it twice for holiday gifts, (even from-you-to-you gifts), check out our “Prepared Family Combo.”
  • Deer hunting season is a highlight of the winter months. Here is our favorite recipe made in the Sun Oven®. Served with warm Artisan bread, this makes a hearty meal in any weather.
  • Persimmons are a sweet and delicious fruit filled with vitamins and minerals. The Fuyu variety makes a nutritious persimmon leather.
  • Generosity during the holidays often includes contributions to food banks. Think about adding healthy items in your Food Bank Contribution.

Make a Flu Emergency Kit

Seasonal influenza is a contagious respiratory infection caused by different flu viruses. The major symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue and body aches. New Year’s eve saw 67 people in the Portland, OR area alone, hospitalized suffering from a flu strain similar to the 2009 pandemic. Striking middle-aged people, this strain causes an almost comatose sleeping state for hours. It has been identified as a re-assortment of the Avian, Swine and Human strains. With lots of holiday travel and people contained is close quarters, germs can travel far. Since the flu can sneak up on you, your flu emergency kit should include:

  • Thermometer – a high fever is one of the first clues that you have the flu. Get a digital one and wash it before and after using. Watch out for a fever that goes away and then comes back. this could mean it has turned into a bacterial infection. Seek medical attention for children who have a fever over 1040F or for adults who have difficulty breathing, persistent vomiting, sudden dizziness or confusion.
  • Keep your ibuprofen or acetaminophen up to date. These will relieve fever and muscle aches in adults and children over six months. Don’t use aspirin or aspirin containing medicine in children who have cold or flu symptoms. This can lead to Reye’s syndrome.  For babies under six months, the CDC recommends only acetaminophen. Follow all label directions closely.
  • Decongestant - Use this to treat nasal blockage. For children under age four consult your doctor before giving decongestants. Saline nasal sprays can be used in adults and children to loosen mucus. Decongestant sprays shrink nasal passages. Only use them for a few days and never in children.
  • Cough Suppressant - Include this to take at night. Avoid taking this during the day, it is better to expel any phlegm. Be careful when mixing over the counter medications. Some may have the same ingredients, resulting in an overdose. Pediatric cough and cold formulas are not recommended for children under 2.
  • Tissues and Hand Sanitizer - Stock up on these. Put every used tissue into the trash as soon as you are finished using it. Runny noses, sneezing and coughing are the main way that flu droplets spread germs. Always cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues and teach kids to do the same. If a tissue isn’t handy cough into your elbow instead of your hand. Wash your hands often with soap and water between tissue uses. Use hand sanitizer gel, if you can’t wash often. A good alcohol based sanitizer should contain 60% alcohol. Keep your hands away from your face. Germs have ready entry through your nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Liquids -  Stock up on water and other clear liquids. They help restore fluids lost from a fever and help keep mucus secretions flowing. Bottled water may taste better than tap water and may limit the use of glasses and cups. Don’t share it. You can add salt to water (1/2 tsp per 8 ounces) to make a gargle. Sports drinks contain electrolytes that will help avoid dehydration. Include herbal teas and soups. Hot liquids can be soothing. A bowl of broth based soup is easier on an upset stomach and the steam can help loosen mucus. If you’re sick, you probably will not feel like cooking.
  • Lozenges - Throat lozenges can soothe a cough or sore throat, but they are not a cure. Many of their ingredients, like honey, herbs, or eucalyptus, have been used for years. Zinc can also help. Studies have shown if taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, it helps reduce the duration and severity in normally healthy individuals. Don’t take more than 50 mg per day.
  • DVD’s - Include some comedy DVD’s in your emergency kit. Laughter can be the best medicine.

Influenza vaccines can help stimulate your immune system before you get the flu. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends all children, six months and older get a flu vaccine every year.

Billie Nicholson 2014

1 http://www.koin.com/news/oregon/pandemic-flu-hits-oregon-in-big-way

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