Avian Flu: The Pandemic of the Future
Recently, media reports have been informing the world of the pandemic flu and the horrific possibilities of it spreading. But what is the pandemic flu? What really will happen if it spreads? The World Health Organization states that “an influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illnesses” (World Health Organization, 2009).
The specific type of influenza health officials are concerned with is the avian flu. This type of flu travels by bird and the CDC states that infection results from “contact with infected poultry or surfaces contaminated with secretion/excretions from those infected birds” (CDC, 2007). An example would be contact with contaminated domesticated chicken or ducks.
The avian flu is just as contagious as the regular flu. Regular flu symptoms usually involve respiratory illness such as sore throat, cough, fever, and muscle aches. The CDC states that “Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza symptoms to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases, and other severe and life-threatening complications” (CDC, 2007).
As with the regular flu, the avian flu will spread when individuals who are infected cough or sneeze on others. Also, if those particles are spread onto surfaces and other susceptible individuals touch those surfaces they may become infected. With worldwide travels being more common today than in the past, it puts the world at a greater risk because it can easily be carried across countries. Thus, the importance of hand washing cannot be stressed enough. The reason why pandemic flu is worse than the regular flu is because the regular flu comes in seasons, making everyone partially immune to it. The pandemic flu, or avian virus, undergoes mutations rapidly so that the body has never encountered such virus and no person can be prepared. Because of the rapid mutation the vaccinations towards the avian flu may not work because the strain of the virus may have mutated, leaving the vaccine ineffective.
Are YOU Ready in 3?—Pandemic Flu Preparedness
Because pandemic flu is so severe, it is important to prevent the spread and contraction of it in the general population. Vaccines can be made, but as the avian flu can mutate (change) so quickly, an effective vaccine is hard to produce and would probably not be available to many people right away in the case of an outbreak. This does not have to be a hopeless situation, however. In the case of a major outbreak, “businesses and other employers will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society.” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2009) Businesses should therefore take great care to make emergency plans today.
The majority of an American’s waking hours are spent at work, making their workplace one of the most logical places for preventative and protective care and a likely place they may contract pandemic flu if there is an outbreak. In addition, if there is an outbreak, it is projected that absenteeism could reach as high as 30 to 40 percent everywhere, people may need to stay at home for many days, and disruptions may occur in such critical areas as public safety and emergency response, fuel delivery and product shipping.” (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 2009). As one can see, any of these scenarios could cause major problems for different worksites. Fortunately, one program that can prepare a business for a pandemic flu outbreak is the Ready in 3 Program, in which a business can create a plan, prepare a kit, and listen for information (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 2009).
How to Implement the Ready in 3 Program
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (2009), to implement the Ready in 3 Program, a business should:
1. Create an Emergency Planning Team
- Identify the most important areas of the business as well as what parts of the
business could be shut down in the case of mass absenteeism
- Describe exactly how an outbreak could affect the business, processes, and people
- Prioritize the risks
2. Create an action plan/kit
- Share this plan with everybody in the business and other businesses
- Prepare all employees with this plan
- Practice the plan
- Review the plan yearly to keep it up-to-date
3. Listen for information
- About possible pandemic flu outbreaks and vaccination or medications
More detailed information on the Ready in 3 plan can be found at http://www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3/.
Don't Catch the Flu this Year
The flu season is just around the corner. It is time to start thinking about ways to keep you and your family healthy.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu every year. Some people are more likely to get the flu than others; they are called an ‘at risk’ population. People who are considered at risk include:
• Children younger than 5 years old
• Pregnant women
• Healthcare workers
• Adults 65+ years old
• Adults and children who are in contact with high risk people
• Adults and children with conditions which weaken the immune system
Children are at risk for catching the flu. Many times children touch things in their environment without washing their hands. Later, another child touches the same object and does not wash their hands after handling the object. All the germs will be transferred to everything the child touches next including their face, eyes, and mouth. All three of these areas are vulnerable places for the flu virus to enter the body.
Prevention is the key to stopping the spread of the flu. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine. A vaccine works by allowing your body to build immunity against a weakened or dead form of the flu virus before being exposed to a full strength virus. After getting a vaccine, it takes two weeks for your body to build up the antibodies.
There are two different types of vaccines available; a nasal version and a shot version. The nasal vaccine is a spray which is sprayed up your nose. The shot version is injected with a needle typical in your upper arm.
There are other ways to help prevent getting the flu which can be done daily. Washing your hands is very important. It is also important to watch children to make sure they are washing their hands. Children often touch their face, mouth, or nose which are three inlets for the flu virus to enter the body. By properly washing ones hands, the flu virus is killed. To wash your hands correctly, it is widely accepted that you must actively wash your hands for 20 seconds.
For some people, including children, it is easier to clean their hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer. In a 2002 study by Girou et al. (2002), it was noted that most people have a stigma that hand sanitizers do not clean the hands as well as traditional soap and water. The same studied showed that hand sanitizers actually work better at cleansing the hands than soap and water. The researchers believed hand sanitizer worked better because people do not wash their hands long enough. Hand sanitizers were easier to use and killed the germs quicker than soap and water.
Even when you do your best to prevent catching the flu, there is a good chance that someone around you will get sick, or perhaps even you. It is, therefore, important to know the symptoms of influenza. The CDC lists symptoms which include the following, only to name a few:
• Extreme tiredness
• Runny or study nose
While you are sick, it is important to avoid contact with other people. Also it is important to cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow to avoid the spread of diseases. As always, wash your hands frequently in order not to spread germs to others.
There are many websites which you can visit to learn more information about the flu. WHACK the Flu is a website which educates children ages pre-kindergarten through fifth grade with fun and interactive activities. For more information, check out the website at http://www.dhss.mo.gov/WHACK.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Retrieved February 13, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov
Girou, E., Loyeau, S., Legrand, P. Oppein, F., Brun-Buisson, C. (2002). Efficacy of handrubbing with alcohol based solution versus standard handwashing with antiseptic soap: Randomized clinical trial [Electronic version]. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 325(7360), 362-365.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Avian Influenza. Retrieved February 9, 2009 http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. (2009). Are you ready?. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from http://www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3/Plan.html.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. (2009). Preparing for an influenza pandemic: A guide to planning for business. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from http://www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3/PanFluBusinessGuide.pdf.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2009). Pandemic flu. Retrieved February 12, 2009,from http://pandemicflu.gov/index.html.
World Health Organization. (2009). Epidemic and pandemic alert and response. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://web.archive.org/20030202145905/www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/pandemic/en/.
Cox, Carolyn (2009, February 17). [Weblog] Pandemic of the future: Avian flu. Carolcoxclassroom. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from http://coxclassroom.blogspot.com/2009/02/pandemic-of-future-avian-flu.html
Cox, Carolyn (2010, February 16). [Weblog] Don't catch the bug this year. Carolcoxclassroom. Retrieved February 18, 2010, from http://coxclassroom.blogspot.com/2010/02/dont-catch-bug-this-year.html