According to the Center for Disease Control an influenza pandemic ” happens when a new or novel influenza A virus emerges and is able to spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.”
It is important to note that at this time the United States IS NOT experiencing an influenza pandemic. There is a difference between seasonal flu and pandemic flu.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following to help reduce the spread of seasonal or pandemic influenza:
- Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. Remain at home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free (no fever) for 24 hours, whichever is longer
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has an excellent series of webcasts, Know What to do About the Flu with information for parents, care givers, employers, schools and other community organizations and groups.
Novell 2009 and Pets
In addition, all types of birds and several non-ruminant mammals (dogs, ferrets, pigs, and horses) are susceptible to influenza viruses. Cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infection “spilling over” into these animals may occur if they come into close contact with an H1N1-infected human. On October 9, 2009, an USDA laboratory confirmed 2009 H1N1 infection in a ferret. The ferret’s owner had previously been ill. November 4, 2009 another case of 2009 H1N1 was confirmed in a pet ferret in Nebraska. Also reported the same day by the Iowa State Department of Health was a confirmed case of 2009 H1N1 in a domestic (indoor) cat. In both of these cases the owners has been ill. Reports continue of cats, dogs, pet birds, and ferrets becoming ill after exposure to owners infected with H1N1.
The best advice is to always follow common sense guidelines when dealing with animals (eg, washing your hands). In addition, it’s more important than ever that pet owners keep a good eye on their pet’s health and consult a veterinarian if their pet is showing any signs of illness. Keeping your pets healthy reduces their risk of becoming ill. Companion animals including, pot-bellied pigs, and birds should be monitored closely for signs of flu-like illness. Just like in people, treatment by your veterinarian will include efforts to treat the symptoms and/or prevent secondary bacterial pneumonia. It is unknown at this time whether an infected pet will harbor enough virus to spread the infection to a cage mate or uninfected humans. See the American Veterinary Association FAQs for more information or the CDC 2009 H1N1 and companion animals.
Individual, Family, School, Business, Child Care Facility, Faith-Based Organization and Community Planning and Preparation
As we have seen, pandemic influenza is not a local, state or regional disaster. For this reason, communities, states and nations will stand alone to respond and recover. August 2009, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius warned that in anticipation of the second and third waves of 2009 H1N1, preparedness starts with individuals and families. Pandemic influenza is not a short duration disaster such as a tornado or hurricane. The scope, duration and likely disruption of commerce and daily life as we know it, demands individuals and communities be prepared to take care of themselves for two to six weeks. While a 72-hour kit emergency kit may work well for some disasters it likely will not be sufficient for pandemic influenza. There are many excellent resources to help individuals, families, schools, businesses, child care facilities, and faith-based/volunteer and community organizations plan and prepare for pandemic influenza. Please refer to the following resources:
Information for K-12 schools, colleges and universities, child care facilities, business/employers and faith-based/volunteer organizations
- United States Department of Homeland Security — Ready America
Get a kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed and Get Involved (4 steps to prepare)
- EDEN online learning opportunities:
Pandemic Preparedness for Business
Pandemic Preparedness for Faith-Based Organizations
Individual and family planning and preparation is essential in any community for two reasons: 1) first responders must be ready at home to be able to respond in the community, and 2) the better prepared citizens are in a community the less stress on responders and demand for limited resources. However, for many, the task of making a pandemic plan is overwhelming, but that need not be the case. There are four steps for being prepared:
1. Get a Kit. This means putting together food, water, medicine and supplies for yourself and your family for a period of two weeks, though for pandemic planning purposes, six weeks would be better. The biggest challenge for many is determining how much food and water is needed for two weeks or longer.
2. Make a Plan. Every individual and family needs a communication plan for a disaster, pandemic or otherwise, and Ready America, Make a Plan is an easy-to-use online resource for developing a communication plan. A communication plan must have contact information for all family members, including school, child care facilities, and medical information for each family member. Individuals and families must have a plan for sheltering in place or evacuating.
3. Be Informed. Individuals and families must be aware of the types of disasters, natural and man-made, likely to occur in their area and plan accordingly. For instance, while flooding or wildfires may require evacuation, blizzards and pandemic influenza will require sheltering in place. To learn more about disasters for your area go to Ready America – Be Informed.
4. Get Involved. Don’t delay, learn today what your community has done or is doing to plan and prepare for pandemic influenza. The U.S. pandemic influenza plan and individual state plans may be found at Pandemic.gov.