Friday, May 11, 2012

Pandemic

With disaster planning, people think of tornadoes and earthquakes but overlook pandemics. What's a pandemic you ask?  According to Wikipedia:  A pandemic [from the Greek meaning "all" "people] is when an infectious disease spreads across a large region; even worldwide. But it is more than just a worldwide disease; the seasonal flu is not generally considered a pandemic. A pandemic is an aggressive disease, like smallpox and tuberculosis, affecting ever greater numbers of people until a cure is found or it burns itself out after massive deaths.

A worst case pandemic is a new disease (or mutation) that is easily spread, deadly, and with no cure. The US hasn't really seen this on a large scale since the Spanish flu of the 1910's although in some countries HIV has reached pandemic levels.

During a pandemic massive numbers of people become sick and/or die. The immediate effect is that hospitals become overwhelmed and unable to treat all patients. Then doctors & nurses become sick which makes the hospital problem even worse. Then services overall begin to worsen as workers for all types of jobs are sick, caring for the sick or dead. Bodies may pile up with no one to bury them. At some point fear may take over with everyone afraid to leave their home (or alternately fleeing the city to find health in isolation). The government may close schools, sport games, church services and other sites where people meet and mix to halt the spread of the disease.

How do you prepare for something like this? FEMA at www.ready.gov/pandemic suggests:
  • Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand.
  • Periodically check your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.
  • Have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
  • Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.
  • Get involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic.
 When a pandemic begins,
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

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