Preparing for Pandemics
What is a Pandemic?
A pandemic is the outbreak of a disease that happens over a geographic area, such as Europe or the United States. This disease affects a high proportion of the population. An epidemic is when an infectious disease affects more people than it is expected to. A pandemic is an infectious disease that spreads to more people than it is expected to over a large area such as a continent.
Regional events such as hurricanes, tornadoes or terrorist attacks, do not have global implications, but a pandemic, such as the influenza can. Pandemic outbreaks such as the influenza for example, have stressed the fact that there is critical importance in planning and responding to these outbreaks. The better the planning and response, the better chances of reducing social and economic disruptions, decreasing human morbidity, and exposure risk.
Examples of a Pandemic
A pandemic outbreak, such as HIV/AIDS is an example of one of the worst in history. Influenza pandemics have occurred over the years throughout history, influenza viruses have caused pandemics, but in 1918, a very virulent influenza pandemic killed many Americans. No one knows exactly for sure how many people died from 1918-1919 from the influenza, but it was estimated that approximately 30-50 million people died worldwide as a result, with approxiamately 675,000 of those being Americans.
History has provided many pandemics from the Plague of Athens (Typhoid fever) to the Yellow fever, which hit many cities as far north as New York. In history, there have been such pandemics as the plague, tuberculosis, polio, and influenza.
Over the history of time, there have been influenza pandemic breakouts throughout the United States. The pandemic flu is different from the seasonal flu. The pandemic flu makes you sicker and spreads more easily from person to person. The H1N1 (swine flu) was listed as an influenza pandemic.
After the 1918 flu influenza, the Asian flu in 1957 killed more than 69,800 in the United States and one to two million worldwide. In 1968, the Hong Kong Flu, killed more than 33,800 in the United States and 700,000 worldwide. Pandemics have the potential to extend from mild to severe and can change during the process of the pandemic.
Pandemics in the Future
There are major concerns regarding such possible future pandemics as viral hemorrhagic fever (Ebola virus) to biological warfare. That is the reason that a pandemic guide is so important to pandemic preparedness.
As long as humans travel, so will disease. Air travel definitely plays a part in the spread of illnesses in the United States and globally. Researchers have shown with a computer simulation which United States airports are more likely to spread the disease in the first few days.
In the United States, three states have been focused on to be the most likely to contribute to the spread of pathogens:
- New York
Any infectious disease has the ability to become a pandemic if it is transferred from the host geographic region to other areas. The potential pandemics which are a concern for the 21st century is the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), influenza, tuberculosis, coronavirus, and any diseases which have impacted the world in the past has a chance of once again becoming a pandemic in the United States. Pandemic preparedness is of high prevalence for the prevention of the spread of these diseases.
What can happen during a pandemic?
A pandemic can result in (and not limited to):
- Closing of schools
- Closing of businesses
- Cancellation of public gatherings
- Food and supplies shortages
- Limited public transportation
- People with symptoms will be asked to stay at home
- People exposed may be asked to stay at home
- Public services and businesses may limit hours
Preparing for a Pandemic
The purpose of pandemic preparedness is to recognize and manage the disease. Planning may help with the reduction of transmission of the pandemic strain, decrease cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths. Pandemic preparedness is not something that is accomplished easily. The preparation and implementation of a plan can take weeks or even months. Many levels of the government need to be involved, along with the people, to be sure that everyone is educated in pandemic preparedness and they are knowledgeable of a pandemic guide.
Being prepared for a pandemic will take some effort. It is suggested that all households have supplies necessary in case a pandemic strikes. This is for the protection of yourself and your family. Supplies can be purchased and assembled for Pandemic Response Kits, but premade kits are available online, which are inexpensive and easily stored.
The typical kit contains:
- Dis-infective, which kills Influenza A flu virus, MRSA, HIV type 1, and others
- Hand Sanitizer
- NIOSH N-95 masks
- Nitrile gloves
- Antiseptic wipes
- Disposable thermometers
- Pocket tissues
- Isolation suits-zippered coveralls
- Hair cover
- Bio-Hazard bags
Other Important Considerations
There are things that can be done every day to help protect you and your family from some of these diseases. Vaccinations are available for such diseases as measles, tetanus, and some strains of the influenza. There are things that can be done every day to limit the spread of germs and help prevent infections, such as eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands with soap and water and staying away from others who are sick.
You and your family can plan ahead for many of the situations by:
- Stocking at least 2 weeks of emergency food and water and other important supplies such as toiletries
- Store foods that are not perishable.
- Fill out family health information sheets.
- Keep a good supply of prescriptions and nonprescription medications, along with other health supplies that may be needed, such as first aid kits, pain relievers, cough medicine, and vitamins.
- Have the children create their own comfort packs, which might include such things as books, stuffed animals, coloring books, and anything that might make them feel calm and comfortable during an emergency.
Once the pandemic has been declared over, these diseases can still pose a risk to many individuals. Most people who become ill can be treated safely at home but family should be aware that if symptoms become more severe, then professional medical care should be sought.
Use preventive measures such as practicing respiratory precautions and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Always use good hand hygiene, washing your hands with soap and water after any suspected contact. Try not to touch your face. If you have not been vaccinated, consider getting vaccinated. It is very important for people to remain vigilant and alert as they move out of the pandemic period.