PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCIES
Public Health Emergencies may be related to incidents or outbreaks of infectious disease (example: pandemic flu, West Nile virus), food and waterborne illnesses (examples: Salmonella, E. coli) and other threats to the public's health and safety. Although the nature of each threat varies greatly, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself.
Pandemic influenza (flu) is a worldwide outbreak of a new flu virus for which there is little or no immunity (protection). Health experts are concerned about the potential for a pandemic flu.
No one can predict when the next pandemic flu will occur or how severe it will be. What is known is that flu pandemics have occurred three times (1918, 1957, and 1968) in the last century. A flu pandemic occurs when a new flu virus emerges. It spreads easily from person-to-person, may cause serious illness, and can sweep across the country and around the world in a very short time. A flu pandemic may come and go in waves, each of which might last for six to eight weeks. If the next flu pandemic to hit the U.S. is severe, life as we know it could be seriously disrupted. To protect yourself and your family, take the time to know the facts and plan ahead to be prepared.
Follow these steps to prevent the spread of flu and teach your children to do the same.
- Wash your hands often. This will help protect you and others against germs. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wash or gel sanitizers.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home and away from other people, as much as possible, to protect them from getting sick as well. Get plenty of rest and check with your doctor.
Practice other good health habits.
- Keep healthy: get plenty of sleep, exercise daily, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking may increase the risk of serious consequences if you get the flu.
Discuss important health issues with your family and loved ones.
Public Emergency Preparedness
- Talk about how/where they would be cared for if you become sick, and what would be needed to care for them at home.
- Make a plan for someone to care for children/people with special needs if all adults in the household are sick. Are there other family members or neighbors who can fill in? Make those plans now and discuss with all who need to know.
Have two weeks worth of medical and health supplies on hand for you and your family. Examples of supplies are:
- Soap or water-free, alcohol-based hand wash.
- Medicines for fever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen.
- Cough Syrup
- Fluids with electrolytes, such as Pedialyte, Gatorade, or other oral rehydration solutions.
- Prescription Drugs: If you or a family member regularly takes prescription drugs, talk to your doctor and insurance plan about having enough medicine on hand to last for several weeks.
To prevent the spread of flu, there are several key steps that you can take now to stay healthier: wash your hands with soap and water frequently, cover your cough and sneezes, stay home if you are sick, and stay away from others so they will not become sick, and get a seasonal flu shot.
Healthcare professionals recommend seasonal flu shots as the best way of preventing the flu. Flu shots are recommended for the following groups of people: children 6 month and older, pregnant women, childcare providers, caregivers, first responders, seniors, and anyone with a chronic illness.