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What to do after the pandemic
- Don't count on a vaccine
being available. The flu vaccine that is
currently used for seasonal flu will not work against avian
influenza. New strains of the virus require new vaccines, and these
can take months or years to develop and even longer to produce and
distribute on a large scale.
- Stay informed.
Should a pandemic of any kind flare up, the World Health
Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), and other governmental and non-governmental organizations
will provide information on the spread of the disease, as well as
updates on vaccines or other medications, tips for keeping yourself
safe, and travel advisories. The WHO and CDC, as well as various
national governments, already have websites in place to provide
useful planning information to the public. Newspapers and TV and
radio broadcasts will also help disseminate critical warnings and
- Get your yearly flu vaccine
shot. While the current vaccine won't
protect you from Avian flu or any other "new" strains of the virus,
it can help you stay healthy (by protecting you some flu virus
strains), which may in turn help your body to fight the virus better
if you do become infected.
- Get a pneumonia vaccine
shot. In past influenza pandemics, many
victims succumbed to secondary pneumonia infection. While the
pneumonia vaccine cannot protect against all types of pneumonia, it
can improve your chances of surviving the pandemic. The vaccine is
especially recommended for people over the age of 65 or those who
have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma.
- Use anti-viral medications
if advised to do so by a health professional or by the government.
Two antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, have shown the
potential to effectively prevent and treat avian flu. These are both
available only by prescription and will probably be effective only
if taken before infection or very shortly afterward. It should be
noted that additional testing is necessary to determine how
effective these drugs really are against avian flu. Furthermore,
mutations in the avian flu virus may render them ineffective in
- Wash your hands frequently.
Hand washing may be the single most powerful defense against avian
influenza and many other infectious diseases. If pandemic strikes,
you should wash your hands several times a day. Make sure that you
- Use an alcohol-based
disinfectant. Since it's probably not
feasible to wash your hands every time you touch something that
may carry the virus, you should carry an alcohol-based hand
cleaner with you at all times. These cleaners come in a variety of
forms, and can be used any time you need a quick touch-up. Keep in
mind, however, that the use of these cleaners is not a substitute
for thoroughly washing your hands, and they should only be used to
- Avoid exposure to infected
birds. Right now, the only documented way
to become infected with avian influenza is by coming into contact
with infected birds or poultry products, and these routes of
infection will continue even if the virus mutates so that
human-to-human transmission becomes the greatest threat. Avoid
handling wild birds, and try to prevent domestic animals (such as
house cats) from coming into contact with birds. If you work in
proximity to dead or live poultry--on a farm or in a
poultry-processing facility, for example--take precautions such as
wearing gloves, respirators, and safety aprons. Cook poultry
thoroughly, to 165 degrees F throughout, and exercise proper
food-handling techniques, as you would to protect yourself from
other threats such as salmonella. Proper cooking kills the avian
- Exercise social distancing.
The most effective way to prevent becoming infected with avian
influenza is to avoid exposure to infected people. Unfortunately,
it's not possible to determine who is infected and who is not--by
the time symptoms appear, a person is already contagious. Social
distancing, deliberately limiting contact with people (especially
large groups of people), is a reasonable precaution to take in the
event of a pandemic.
- Stay home from work.
If you're sick or if others at your workplace have become sick,
you should stay away from your workplace even in the absence of a
pandemic. Given that people will generally be infected and
contagious before they exhibit symptoms, however, during a
pandemic it's essential to stay away from places, such as work,
where you have a high probability of being exposed to an infected
- Try to work from home.
A pandemic can last for months or even years, and waves of intense
local outbreaks can last for weeks, so it's not like you can just
take a few sick days to protect yourself from workplace infection.
If possible, try to arrange a work-from-home situation. A
surprising variety of jobs can now be accomplished remotely, and
employers will likely be willing--or even required--to try this
out if a pandemic strikes.
- Keep children home from
school. Any parent knows that kids pick
up all kinds of bugs at school. Avian influenza is one bug that
you certainly don't want your kids picking up.
- Avoid public
transportation. Buses, planes, boats,
and trains place large numbers of people in close quarters. Public
transportation is the ideal vehicle for widespread spread of
- Stay away from public
events. During a pandemic, governments
may cancel public events, but even if they don't, you should
probably stay away from them. Any large gathering of people in
close proximity creates a high-risk situation.
- Wear a respirator.
The influenza virus can be spread through the air, so in the event
of a pandemic it's a good idea to protect yourself from inhalation
of the virus if you're out in public. While surgical masks only
prevent the wearer from spreading germs, respirators (which
often look like surgical masks) protect the wearer from inhaling
germs. You can buy respirators that are designed for one-time use,
or you can buy reusable ones with replaceable filters. Use only
respirators labeled as "NIOSH certified," "N95," "N99," or "N100,"
as these help protect against inhalation of very small particles.
Respirators only provide protection when worn properly, so be sure
to follow the instructions exactly--they should cover the nose, and
there should be no gaps between the mask and the side of the face.
- Wear medical gloves.
Gloves can prevent germs from getting on your hands, where they can
be absorbed directly through open cuts or spread to other parts of
your body. Latex ornitrile medical gloves or heavy-duty rubber
gloves can be used to protect the hands. The gloves should be
removed if torn or damaged, and hands should be thoroughly washed
after removal of gloves.
- Protect your eyes.
Avian influenza can be spread if contaminated droplets (from a
sneeze, for example) enter the eyes. Wear glasses or goggles to
prevent this from occurring, and avoid touching your eyes with your
hands or with potentially contaminated materials.
- Dispose of potentially
contaminated materials properly. Gloves,
masks, tissues, and other potential biohazards should be handled
carefully and disposed of properly. Place these materials in
approved biohazard containers or seal them in clearly marked plastic
- Prepare for disruption of
services. If a pandemic strikes, many of
the basic services we take for granted, such as electricity, phone,
and mass transit, may be disrupted temporarily. Widespread employee
absenteeism and massive death tolls can shut down everything from
the corner store to hospitals.
- Keep a small amount of
cash around at all times as banks may
close and ATMs may be out of service.
- Discuss emergency
preparation with your family. Make a
plan so that children will know what to do and where to go if you
are incapacitated or killed, or if family members cannot
communicate with each other.
- Stock up on necessities.
In the developed world, at least, food shortages and disruption of
services will likely not last more than a week or two at a time.
Still, it's essential to be prepared for such an event.
- Store a two-week supply
of water for everyone in your household.
Keep at least 1 gallon per person per day in clear plastic
- Store a two-week supply
of food. Opt for non-perishable foods
that don't need to be cooked and that don't require a lot of
water to prepare.
- Make sure you have an
adequate supply of essential medications.
- Seek medical attention at
the onset of symptoms. The effectiveness
of antiviral medications decreases as the illness progresses, so
prompt medical treatment is imperative. If someone with whom you
have had close contact becomes infected, be sure to seek medical
care even if you do not display symptoms.
Tips about the Avian Flu Pandemic:
- While health officials say that
avian flu is the most likely candidate for the next pandemic, any
number of infectious diseases can spread to pandemic proportions. In
the past, the world has seen pandemics of bubonic plague, cholera,
tuberculosis, and typhus, for example, and the current AIDS crisis
can also be described as pandemic, given that the disease has spread
worldwide and infects as many as 25% of the population in some
areas. Most of the precautions listed above can be equally applied
to any pandemic.
- You may find that wearing a mask
makes it more difficult to breathe. In fact, people with asthma and
other respiratory problems may not be able to wear masks regularly.
Even for those without these problems, masks can make you feel
winded when walking up hills and performing other strenuous tasks.
Remember, though, if you take your mask off or wear it improperly,
it does you no good. Just slow down and get used to making the extra
effort to breathe.
- It is unwise to travel during a
pandemic. Avoid traveling except as absolutely necessary, such as
when seeking medical attention.
- Frequent handwashing can prevent the
spread of disease, but not if you touch contaminated objects right
after you wash your hands. Use a paper towel to turn off the sink
and when touching door handles.
- It's essential to teach your
children the above steps, as well. Children in school foster the
spread of disease because they are kept in close quarters with other
children and because they generally have worse hygiene than adults.
- Cotton gloves can be worn under
medical gloves to prevent dermatitis, a skin condition which can
erupt after prolonged use of latex or nitrile gloves.
- Pull off gloves inside-out, so that
the contaminated outsides of the gloves are contained within the
- Cover your nose with a tissue when
sneezing, and use disposable tissues (as opposed to handkerchiefs)
- Begin preparing now to make sure you
have adequate savings in case a pandemic forces you to miss a
substantial amount of work.
First Hours after Pandemic
Insurance requirements after a disaster
Protect yourself and others:
- Wait for an all-clear announcement before
leaving your home or shelter.
- Check people around you for injuries.
Begin first-aid and seek help if necessary.
- Watch out for downed utility lines.
- Restrict telephone use to emergency calls.
- Avoid collapsed or deteriorated bridges.
- Check your water heater and appliances for
damage. Do your checking with a flashlight, not matches or
candles. If you smell gas, open windows and turn off the main valve. Don't
turn on lights and appliances until the gas has dissipated and the system
has been checked. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
- Use your emergency water or boil tap water
before drinking until you are told the water supply is safe.
- Food that came in contact with flood
waters may be contaminated and should be discarded.
- Check refrigerated food for spoilage. Make
a list of spoiled or contaminated food and save the list for your claim
representative. Damaged food may be covered by your insurance policy.
- Debris in the streets, downed power lines
and flooding may make driving hazardous. If flooding is a potential
hazard, stay away from rivers and streams.
Protect your home and personal property:
- Look for damage, including roof damage,
that could allow rain into the house. (Don't climb onto the roof.)
- If your power is out, unplug all small and
sensitive items to prevent electrical spike damage. (This includes TV,
VCR, computers, etc.)
- Take reasonable steps to prevent
further damage. This may include temporary roof repair, window glass
replacement, boarding up holes with plywood and covering leaks with
- Remove water from saturated floors and
- Separate items that may be cleaned and/or
- Dry and clean wet furniture and clothing
as soon as possible. Save your receipts; the costs for these
emergency steps are possibly covered under your insurance policy.
- Check with your claim representative
before you dispose of any items you plan to claim as damaged.
- Document the time you spent cleaning up,
what you did and the number of hours.
- Make a list of all damaged items, include
quantity, description and age.
Protect your car from further damage:
- If your car was under water, do not try to
start it. Take extra steps to remove the water and speed up the drying
- Cover windows, holes, etc. to prevent more
water from coming in.
- Find your vehicle and registration, you'll
need it to file your insurance claim.
- If you need to have your vehicle towed, or
get temporary repairs, save all receipts.
If your home is damaged so severely you
can't live in it:
- Payment for expenses that are beyond your
normal living expenses may be available.
- Find temporary housing for your family.
(There is no coverage under most flood policies for this
- We suggest that you not enter into any
long-term leases until you talk to your insurance company claim
- Keep all receipts
associated with the temporary housing, meals and other miscellaneous
What is a disaster?
The United Nations defines a disaster
as: "A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society
causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which
exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its
own resources." (from the
UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction)
A disaster is defined and 'declared' when
local resources are overwhelmed; when more resources are required than those
immediately available. A disaster simply defines the point of escalation where outside
required: 9/11 was a disaster for the city of New York within minutes of occurrence. As
moving resources to overwhelmed areas is a management problem, the term
disaster management has come into use to describe larger
scale processes of
disaster relief and
disaster recovery as opposed to
emergency management of the more routine sort. Some disasters, such as a pandemic,
may preclude any help arriving "from outside", as there may "be no outside"
since many areas are affected at once. For this and other reasons, resilience
rather than after-the-fact relief has become the primary goal of many
Preparedness is the key to surviving and catastrophe