Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kathy Harrison: Pandemic Scares

Kathy Harrison is the author of Another Place at the TableOne Small Boat, and Just in Case. She is a national spokesperson, touring and giving lectures, for both foster parenting and family preparedness. She has appeared onThe Today Show, on Oprah, and in NPR interviews. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts. This post was originally published on her Just In Case Book Blog.

The new strain of flu that has struck Mexico  has got a lot of people very worried. There is no current vaccine for it and it has a significant mortality rate although the US cases do not seem to be having that high rate. Most readers of this blog are already preparing to be self-sufficient during a crisis but it doesn’t hurt to re-evaluate how your family would respond to this threat should it spread to your locale.

The first thing to keep in mind is that, with travel as easy as it is, by the time flu cases are documented, it's too late to think preparedness. You should be thinking about how to stay at home. You want to avoid high concentrations of people such as your local supermarket. Doctor’s offices and hospitals should be avoided unless it is a true emergency as many people will seek medical care when they experience symptoms, making this a primary source of infection. Painter's masks will provide very little protection as the virus can easily enter around the loose edges. Surgical masks are designed to protect the patient from the doctor’s germs and will be only marginally effective as well. Check with a doctor or pharmacist about obtaining appropriate masks if that is what you want to do. If you work in critical areas such as health and safety infrastructure, you will have to weigh your responsibility to your family and consider renting a room to avoid exposing them.

In addition to having food and water for you and your family and your animals,  you should have a good medical kit. Be sure to stock some oral re-hydration therapy. In the powder form, it is inexpensive and stores well. If someone has a high temperature coupled with vomiting and/or diarrhea, they can dehydrate quickly. This is especially important to watch with children. It is possible to make a re-hydration solution but I would rather have the powder form on hand. Some over-the-counter remedies for coughs and fever are good to have on hand. Those should already be stored. Now is a good time to check the use-by date and discard any old medication.

Be sure you have adequate stores of bottled juices, gelatin, and canned soups as these are often the food of choice when one is ill.

Do consider how you will entertain your children if they can’t go to school for several weeks. Having some workbooks and reading materials will enable you to school at home if necessary. A good supply of paper, crayons, and other art supplies is a good idea as are board games, cards and craft kits. Be sure to lay in a supply of reading material for yourself.

Take care of your health in order to have the strongest possible immune system. Wash your hands well and often with running water and soap, especially after using the bathroom and after leaving a public place. I wipe the handle of shopping carts with a disinfectant wipe before I touch one. If you smoke, stop. Add a multivitamin to you daily regime but be sure to eat a healthy diet. This flu will probably run it’s course without disrupting your life too much but preparing for the big pandemic that the CDC is prediction is a prudent thing to do.


Alethea Morrison, Storey Creative Director said...

I went to the CDC web site and as of today, they only recommend limiting travel to Mexico, where the outbreak started. Sorry, Kathy, doesn't it seem premature to advise people to avoid all travel and even visits to the supermarket and doctor's offices? We are not actually in the throes of a pandemic yet. Far more people will die today from car crashes than from swine flu, but I hope we all don't retreat into our homes for fear of our safety.

kathy harrison said...

I should have been more clear. It is far too soon to take such drastic measures. I was actually referring to what one should do if this the disease accelerates or becomes more deadly. My own son is leaving for a business trip to Germany next week and I am not particurally worried.