It’s the beginning of the flue season. Influenza is a highly contagious virus. In today’s modern society it can spread around the world in a matter of days. The major difference for you to know between a virus and bacteria is that a virus cannot be killed by antibiotics. Viral infection can be prevented mainly through vaccines, but personal hygiene and proper handling of food can also help prevent the spread of the flu.
The 1918 flu pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them, three to five percent of the world’s population.
There were two more pandemics that swept the world since the devastating Spanish flu of 1918. In 1957 the “Asian Flu” killed about 2 million people worldwide and 70,000 in the U.S. The risk of another serious pandemic on the scale of the Spanish flu is always just a breath away.
Pandemic flu is not the same as seasonal flu or avian flu. Seasonal flu is not an entirely new strain of flu. Pandemic flu would emerge as a new strain of flu. It can strike anyone and cause life threatening complications in all groups of people both young and old.
Experts believe another pandemic is very likely, however, they do not know exactly when it will occur. In the next pandemic it is likely that millions in the U.S. could be infected. If the pandemic is severe it could kill almost 2 million people in America. If it is a mild pandemic upwards of 200,000 Americans could die. Compare this to the effects of seasonal flu, which typically leads to about 36,000 deaths per year.
When the next pandemic flu happens the effects it will have on society will be catastrophic. Some experts estimate that up to one third of the world’s population could become sick. Services we take for granted would become disrupted. Public transportation, communications, schools, businesses such as banks, stores and restaurants would be closed or limited. Even things like utility service, medical care and police and fire departments would be stretched to the limits. The impact on the economy would be in the billions of dollars.
An influenza pandemic could have a devastating impact around the world, but we can take steps to minimize the impact on ourselves, our families, and our communities. Being prepared is the best response to the threat of a pandemic flu. Steps you can take to prepare are: understand how flu spreads, learn how to help prevent infection, practice healthy habits, stay informed, prepare an emergency kit and be ready to cooperate with authorities in times of emergency.
Governments around the world are preparing for the next pandemic by stock piling vaccines and medications, monitoring existing viruses, and are working to detect outbreaks and respond quickly, and helping state and local authorities develop pandemic flu response plans. However, you must understand that response time may be slow, particularly in rural areas so it’s a good idea for individuals to be as prepared as possible.
Flu spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes. These can spray droplets through the air and infect other people. People with the flu can also leave the virus on things they touch if they have flu germs on their hands. (as they would after covering a cough or sneeze) It takes time for a person to show symptoms, but an infected person can still pass on the flu before showing any sign of illness.
If flu is currently going around take steps to be careful around other people. Try to stay at least 3 feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands often to prevent any germs on your hands from getting into your body.
If you are sick, act responsibly and stay home and keep your distance from family members as much as possible. Especially keep sick kids at home and don’t send them to school.
If you have to cough or sneeze use a tissue or handkerchief. Tissues work best as they can be immediately disposed of after a cough, blowing your nose, or sneezing. Wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards.
It is recommended that you have an emergency kit and food to last you and your family at least two weeks. Here is a link to a 72 hour emergency kit provided by the Dept of Homeland Security. http://www.ready.gov/kit You can adjust this list to meet the two week minimum suggested.
Don’t think it can’t happen again.