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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I have read some information about a potential flu pandemic, and I wanted to make sure that I was well prepared in case of emergency. What should I do to make sure my family is safe if the flu becomes so widespread? What things should we keep at home for situations like this (food, batteries, etc)? How can I prevent my family from getting the flu or spreading it further?
The best way to keep your family safe in case pandemic flu becomes widespread would be to keep your family completely isolated from other persons and the things they might have touched that could be a source of infection for your family. This is probably not a realistic option for most families. However, decreasing your interactions with other people will likely increase your ability to keep your family safe. For example, stocking up on food and supplies before pandemic flu occurs would likely decrease the number of times family members would go to the store, which would likely decrease their risk of becoming ill.
The Ohio Pandemic Flu website is an excellent website for information that you could use to prepare a family emergency plan. The website lists activities that families, schools, businesses, communities, health care providers, local governments, and federal government are currently undertaking to prepare for pandemic influenza. In addition, the website lists emergency supplies that you might find useful such as the flashlights and batteries that you mention as well as prescription medicines, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer, paper products, fever medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, a thermometer, and a first aid kit. In a major emergency you might need to stockpile water.
Although it may not be possible to prevent your family from getting the flu, by carrying out a few additional precautions, you will likely decrease the chances that you are spreading it further. Specific recommendations include:
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throwing the tissue away after you use it.
- Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue.
- Trying not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth because germs often spread this way.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze or use the restroom and before eating. If you are not near soap and water, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Staying away from people who are sick.
- Staying home from work or school if you become ill.
John Andrews, MD, MPH
Assistant Senior Vice President Medical Center
Director University Health Services
University of Cincinnati