10 Lifesaving Tips for Surviving an Impending Bird Flu Pandemic
By Julie Butler
"An influenza pandemic of even moderate impact will result in the biggest single human disaster ever - far greater than AIDS, 9/11, all wars in the 20th century and the recent tsunami combined. It has the potential to redirect world history as the Black Death redirected European history in the 14th century." -- Michael T. Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota
A new killer flu virus is on its way. Ducks and geese carrying this virus are now winging their way across the globe, spreading the disease wherever they go. Started in Asia, it has now spread to Europe. Soon it will be in North and South America.
So far it has only killed a few dozen humans. It is, after all, a virus that's passed from bird to bird. Or from bird to animals. So far it can't be transmitted from human to human. But flu viruses are crafty. They have the ability to change. This is what happened in 1918 when the Spanish Flu Pandemic swept over a war weary planet killing 50 - 100 million people - far more than were killed in the war.
This time it will be much worse. After all, we now have 4 times the number of people living on the planet. And most of them live in cities. Large, crowded cities. The five largest cities in the world have over 100 million people living in them. A killer virus that can be passed from human to human, let loose in our major cities where people are living elbow to elbow, would have a catastrophic effect.
And consider this"back in 1918 it was a much bigger world. It took weeks to get from one side of the world to the other. It took days to get from one side of the continent to the next. Today it takes hours. Last year more than 46 million international visitors came to the United States. If only one infected visitor passes on the virus to 2 others, who pass it on to 2 others, and so on, by the end of a month everyone in the US could be infected.
I don't even want to consider the implications if this idea ever occurs to muslim terrorists who are only too happy to blow themselves to bits in order to take out a few infidels.
So what can we do?
Fortunately it's not all doom and gloom. There are some very specific steps you can take to minimize the dangers and protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. Draw up a Plan. Outline the steps you and your family need to take, both pre-pandemic and during. Identify responsibilities for each family member. Make lists of supplies required. Find appropriate sources. Develop a realistic timeline. By establishing a plan now, you will avoid becoming a victim of the panic that will grip the general population, resulting in civil chaos and pandemonium.
2. Keep Informed. If and when the virus mutates so that it is being spread from human to human, it is likely to start in Southeast Asia. Pay attention to the news. When you hear that this has taken place, it's time to act. We might only have weeks before the pandemic reaches North America, but with international travel so fast and easy it could be much sooner.
3. Prepare Your Child for Home Schooling. Most flu outbreaks get their start at schools. You can be certain that the schools will be closed. And if they're not, you should give very serious thought to keeping your children at home.
4. Minimize Contact with Others. The H5N1 avian flu virus can be transmitted for two days before a person is showing any symptoms and for a week after symptoms have disappeared. You never know who isn't and who might be infected. If possible you should stay home. Every time you go into an area where there are people you are at risk.
5. Wash Your Hands Often. Sneeze particles can travel across a room at 600 miles per hour. If the person sneezing has the flu, everything in that room is covered with flu virus. And when you touch anything, the virus is transmitted to your hand. Eventually it will be transmitted to your mouth. Your only protection is to wash your hands, well and often. Each washing should involve vigorous scrubbing with soap for at least 20 seconds.
6. Stock up on Food & Water. Supermarkets only have enough food for about a week or less. It's critical that you stock up on enough food to last you for the duration which could be 3-4 months.
7. Buy Enough Anti-Viral Medication for Every Member of your Family. Currently there are two drugs that can help mitigate the effects of the avian flu virus. One is called oseltamivir, or Tamiflu. It comes in a tablet form. The other is zanamivir, or Relenza, which is inhaled. You will need a prescription for either of these drugs. They should be taken within 2 days of the onset of symptoms and taken twice a day for 5 days. These drugs are in very short supply, especially Tamiflu which is considered the drug of first choice. You should attempt to secure enough for your family as soon as possible, since once a pandemic hits they will be impossible to obtain. Currently you should be able to buy them at your drug store, or you can order them online.
8. Stock up on Face Masks. You will need to wear these when you absolutely have to come into close contact with others. It's likely that any public businesses or government offices that remain open will make it mandatory that you wear a mask before entering. Make sure that your mask has a rating of N100. The more common N95 masks will not give you enough protection.
There is one mask -- the NanoMask -- which not only blocks the H5N1 virus, but kills it as well.
9. Exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise, research has shown that moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) brings about measurable changes in the immune system, sending white blood cells zipping around the body to find intruders and kill them. But after a few hours, the immune system returns to normal so it's best to exercise regularly.
10. Spread the Word. Regardless of how much coverage the avian threat is receiving in the media, most people are reluctant to act. Perhaps if they don't acknowledge the danger they think it will somehow go away. Or maybe they think the government will look after the situation.
Desperate, panic stricken people are arguably even more dangerous than the virus. The more people surrounding you who are prepared for the pandemic, the safer you will be. You'll be secure in the knowledge that your neighbors won't be eyeing your resources. So please spread the word. And don't give up, even though you may feel like the voice in the wilderness. Eventually, if they hear it often enough, some people will take notice. And then they will also spread the word. And in this way we'll all be a little safer.
"Up to one billion people could die around the whole world in six months.... We are half a step away from a worldwide pandemic catastrophe." Dmitry K. Lvov, Director, D.I. Ivanovsky Institute of Virology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.
Whether or not it will happen this year, and whether or not it will be as catastrophic as many virologists are predicting, one thing is clear: There WILL be a pandemic of unimaginable proportions some time soon.
We can either bury our heads in the sand and hope it won't happen, or we can begin taking immediate steps to ensure that in a worst case scenario, we've given ourselves and our loved ones the best possible chance for survival.
About The Author
A mother of 4, living in central British Columbia, Julie Butler and her husband became curious about Avian Flu on a recent trip to California, where residents were required to report dead birds to authorities.