Your Pandemic Preparedness Checklist

Recently, it’s been impossible to turn on the news without hearing about the 2017-2018 flu season—deaths, school closings, hospitalization rates and now the flu is making its rounds in my social circle. I didn’t get a flu shot (shame on me), so I have been taking every precaution possible not to get sick. So far, it’s working—knock wood—because the current flu season is the worst outbreak since the Swine flu in 2009.

Newspaper headline meant to scare people in believing the flu is worse than it is. It says, "Flu virus kills thousands in just one week."

Headlines like these only make our fears worse.

Fact: The flu this season is more widespread than ever before.
Fact: There have been more hospitalizations due to flu than any year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started recording them in 2010.
Fact: This year’s strain H3N2 is particularly nasty.
Fact: Every year, the entire world experiences flu outbreaks. Three to five million people a year come down with flu, resulting in 250,000 to 500,000 flu-related deaths. The CDC estimates flu-related deaths in the United States to be 12,00 to 56,000 a year.
Fact: The CDC confirms that we are indeed in the middle of a flu epidemic. While we experience a flu epidemic every year, this season is worse.

Why?

The culprit is H3N2, an influenza strain that hits people harder than other strains and is more likely to cause secondary illness like pneumonia. The 2018 flu vaccine is reportedly only 17 to 30 percent effective. Scientists predict which strains to create a vaccine for based on Australia’s flu season. This year, they nailed it—H1N1, H3N2 and B; however, during the process of making a vaccine, the virus can change which makes the vaccine less effective. Plus, H3N2 mutates more than other strains.

Woman blowing her nose

H3N2, one of the worst strains of flu is the reason why this flu season is so bad.

What concerns me the most is that H3N2, though the worse of all the strains, isn’t what caused our cruelest flu pandemics. H3N2 is to blame for only one pandemic—the ‘Hong Kong Flu,’ which killed one million people in 1968. It is H1N1 that is to blame for the 2009 Swine flu and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemics. The Spanish Flu killed 100 million people worldwide. The Swine flu killed 203,000 people worldwide. The Swine flu was a new strain, making it particularly bad since we have no immunity against new influenza strains. A vaccine for the Swine flu was eventually created and approved, but to have vaccinated every American would have taken an entire year. Obviously, it was too late.

Historically, we experience a serious major pandemic every 10 to 50 years and experts say we are past due. Currently, the H3N2 strain we are experiencing is not classified as a pandemic. A pandemic is when a new disease or strain of virus is spread worldwide. Though H3N2 is not new, the director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says, “In addition, there are other strains of influenza still to show up that could be a major cause of disease.” We are just now reaching the peak in the 2017-2018 flu season and doctors are warning us that there is more misery to come. Would you be prepared if a global pandemic developed?

Global health experts unanimously agree that no country in the world is properly prepared for a global pandemic.

There are many reasons why not:

  • New flu strains pop up, which we have no immunity against and no vaccines or drugs to fight it
  • Current influenza strains mutate
  • It is impossible to predict when an infectious illness will happen and spread
  • People are contagious before becoming sick
  • No one listens to warnings

How likely is a global pandemic? Very, experts say and here’s why…

  • More people are moving into growing mega cities.
  • We are moving into lands we previously uninhabited making us susceptible to diseases carried by animals.
  • International travel—we are quickly exposed to more people, food, animals and plants than ever before. To put this into perspective—the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic is believed to have started from Dr. Liu Jianlun who was not showing any symptoms when he traveled through China to Hong Kong, infecting thousands. We can track 4,000 SARS cases and 550 deaths back to Dr. Jianlun.
  • Poor sanitation and lack of adequate healthcare in certain countries with outbreaks.
  • We don’t have a vaccine against it or the drugs to treat it. For example, Ebola was discovered in 1976. In 2014, we had a global outbreak of Ebola—a disease usually confined to remote villages in Africa. It spread around the world in 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,000 people. Eleven Americans were diagnosed with Ebola. And still there have been NO drugs to fight it and NO vaccines developed.
Red Emergency Hospital sign

Avoid crowds and hospitals if you can. Cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands frequently.

What you need to know

Besides death, a global pandemic has the potential to wreak havoc on the world’s economy. Time Magazine writes, “The World Bank estimates that the toll from a severe flu pandemic could hit $4 trillion” due to lack of work and production, the loss of transportation, and in trade and healthcare costs.

As survival-minded people, we know we can’t depend on any government or organization to take care of us. Our self-reliant mindset leads us to conclude that we need to prepare now for the possibility of a global flu pandemic.

Prevention—What You Can Do

  1. Distance yourself from or avoid people and crowds. If you must go out, stay at least six feet away from individuals.
  2. Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds using soap and water frequently, but especially after using the bathroom, before cooking, and after shopping, opening doors, touching elevator button and grocery carts.
  3. Don’t panic or buy into the hysteria. Stay vigilant and research. The info being disseminated in the beginning is usually wrong.
  4. Get vaccinated.
  5. Self-quarantine.
  6. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze—preferably into your arm or elbow, not your hand.
  7. Wash your sheets and pillowcases every few days in hot water.
  8. Germs can live on surfaces for days. Disinfect surfaces regularly with bleach. Wipe down your desk, door knobs, handles, light switches, and elevator buttons at the office regularly with cleaning wipes.
  9. Heed the warning. Pay attention to advisories and take precaution. It is better to be safe than sorry. Stay inside if you must—you and others can spread disease without feeling sick or showing symptoms.
  10. Do not go to the hospital unless it is an emergency. Medical resources will deplete. Hospitals and doctor’s offices are hot beds of sickness. If you can, take advantage of your insurance’s call in service if available.

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Doctor putting medicine in a test tube.

We are at the peak of a flu epidemic. Is it possible it could turn into a pandemic?

No, it is not too late to get the 2018 flu vaccine. We have yet to hit the peak of flu season this year. The flu vaccine takes two weeks to become effective, so the sooner you get a flu shot, the better.

Build a Pandemic Preparedness Kit:

Prepare for city services to be interrupted, hospitals overrun and even shut down, and grocery stores out of stock. The bug-out bag or emergency survival kit you have already prepared is a basic start, but you need a few extra supplies to add to it to be ready for a pandemic.

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Water—at a minimum stock one gallon per person per day. In times of illness, you will need more!
  • Drinks that contain electrolytes
  • Over the counter, essential prescriptions and antivirals for a month (Discuss your options with your doctor)
  • Blankets
  • Copy of your health records
  • Disposable gloves
  • Masks. Masks are helpful, but standard surgical masks don’t do much to fight the flu, because the virus is small enough to pass through. The CDC writes in its H1N1 flu advisory, “facemasks help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them. They also keep splashes or sprays from reaching the mouth and nose of the person wearing them. They are not designed to protect against breathing in the very small particle aerosols that may contain viruses.”
  • Household Bleach
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Soap
  • Non-perishable food
  • First aid supplies

    Click here to buy a first aid kit.

  • Emergency cash
  • Copies of important documents
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Radio
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Garbage bags with ties
  • List of emergency contacts
  • Matches, lighter or other fire starter
  • Manual can opener

Regarding this flu season, Dr. Anne Schuchat Deputy Director of the CDC says, “We have a lot to learn still about influenza… It’s a wake-up call about how severe influenza can be, and why we can never let down our guard.” We can’t predict exactly when and where a disaster, emergency, or apocalypse-type situation will happen, but with a few extra supplies, we can be prepared to bug-in and prevent our families and ourselves from getting sick.

Is there any scenario you feel you aren’t prepared for? Talk to us about it in the comment section below.

 

 

 

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