WITC is making the following information available to you to aid in understanding and preparing for a pandemic flu outbreak. The World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services all warn that the Novel Influenza A (H1N1) virus presents a very real possibility of triggering a world-wide spread of flu that may well threaten millions of lives. All these organizations suggest thorough preparation and planning is essential. WITC has a Pandemic Preparedness Plan in place for the institution, a copy of which can be downloaded here. The information below is for you and your family.
The information on WITC's Web site was obtained from the following sources:U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The World Health Organization
U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Modes of TransmissionThe flu can be transmitted by several means
- Droplet Transmission: This involves large-particle droplets containing the virus that make contact with mucous membranes. Droplets are generated from the source person when that individual coughs, sneezes, or talks. Droplet transmission usually requires close contact between individuals about three feet or less).
- Contact Transmission: This involves direct skin to skin contact and physical transfer of the virus from the infected individual to the new host person. Most commonly this form of transmission takes place via hand to hand contact, hugging, kissing, or when an object is contaminated by one individual and handled by another (i.e., door handles, stairwell railings, table surfaces, shared drinks, shared food, shared cigarettes).
- Airborne Transmission: This form of transmission could also be called small particle droplet transmission and involves infested droplets small enough to be successfully transmitted in the air from one person to another. There is no evidence of infection across long distances, but infection may occur over short distances by inhaling small particles in the air.
This form of transmission appears to play less of a role in an outbreak. However, in close quarters (such as a classroom or office) there is evidence that the flu can spread in such a manner and infection control protocol such as covering a cough should be practiced even if individuals are greater than three feet apart.
Signs and SymptomsThe flu usually starts suddenly and may include the following symptoms
- A fever (usually high, 101 degrees or above)
- Headache (often severe)
- Fatigue, general tiredness (can be severe)
- Cough (non-productive or dry)
- Sore throat (sometimes)
- Body aches (often severe)
- Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children)
- Stuffy or runny nose (sometimes)
Infection Protection ProtocolThe following practices will aid in prevention of catching the flu:
- Hand Washing: Frequent hand washing with warm water and soap or with use of an alcohol-based hand cleaner is essential for reducing the spread of the virus. Wash hands for at least 30 seconds (about the same amount of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to your self twice). If no soap is available, use hand sanitizers.
After washing, use a paper towel to dry your hands and then use that towel to open the washroom door. Dispose of the towel outside. Remember all efforts to remove the virus can be undone by touching a contaminate faucet or door handle.
Think about the places others who may be carrying the virus have touched. These include door handles, desktops, chairs, hand railings, telephones, keyboards, pens, and pencils. Additionally, no matter the amount of scrubbing or use of alcohol, your hands will maintain some of the virus. Therefore, assume your hands are constantly exposed to the virus. Wash your hands frequently, and between washings keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Coughing/Sneezing: Cover your cough or sneeze using a tissue. If you donít have a tissue, cough or sneeze into you upper sleeve, never directly into uncovered hands. Immediately dispose of the tissue in the waste receptacle.
Try to carry tissues with you at all times and have them at the ready to intercept a sneeze or cough. Even though you have reduced the spread of the virus by use of a tissue, remember your hands are likely still contaminated. Donít shake hands with others and wash your hands thoroughly whenever given the opportunity.
Finally, avoid others you observe coughing or sneezing. Stay at least three feet or more away from someone who is showing symptoms.
- Close Contact: Avoid close contact with other persons. Keep at least three feet of distance between you and others, especially if someone shows obvious signs of infection (coughing, sneezing).
Realize that common areas and commonly used items may well have the virus present. This may include door handles, desktops, stairwell railings, telephones, keyboards, books, pens, and pencils. Wipe surfaces clean with alcohol-based sanitation cloths or wipes. Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Remember, even if your hands are clean, they very likely still have virus present on them. Donít touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Thatís where the virus can most readily enter.
- Mucus Membranes: The virus enters the host organism most easily through the mucus membranes of the body. Most commonly, the virus enters through the nose, the eyes, and the mouth. Therefore, donít kiss, donít put your hands near your nose, eyes, or mouth, donít put pens or pencils into your mouth, donít drink from anotherís cup or container, donít share food, donít use anotherís fork or spoon or eat off anotherís plate, donít share cigarettes, and stay at least three feet apart from one another.
Family Protection and Home Preparation
- Follow infection control protocol: Teach members of your family the infection control protocols listed on this web site. Copy them off and post them around the house. Be especially diligent with small children in teaching and reinforcement of the protocols. This would include hand washing, coughing and sneezing, the touching of eyes, nose, and mouth, close contact, and the sharing of objects with others.
- Stock up and store the essentials: Experts cannot agree on the amount of food and water that should be stored in case of an outbreak. All agree that you should lay in a supply of nonperishable food, water, emergency and medical supplies to minimize your need to go out into public or if essential deliveries of goods are curtailed. Some experts suggest seven days worth of supplies and others predict the pandemic may last as long as a month and 30 days worth of supplies is a better goal. Regardless of the number of days you select (and the College recommends 30 days), place the food where you will not be tempted to use it before the crisis. Additionally, it is suggested you inventory those supplies and record expiration datesóchecking every few months to replace any item needing replacement.
What should you stock pile? It is suggested you buy ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, soups, cereals or granola, peanut butter or nuts, dried fruit, crackers, canned juices, bottled water, canned or jarred baby food and formula, any and all other nutritious foods that can be stored for lengthy amounts of time and will keep you family healthy for the period intended. Lots of bottled water is suggested as well. And, donít forget your petís food.
You should also consider how you will heat and cook food should power supplies be discontinued. How will you heat your home? How will you light it? How will you keep everyone entertained and busy should you be confined for a lengthy amount of time? What about sanitation and waste removal? Plan ahead now and stockpile the supplies you believe you will need.
It is suggested that if you or a member of your family is on medication that you make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription drugs and needed medical supplies. Even if you do not have anyone with a medical condition needing prescription drugs, you should prepare to care for family members should anyone become sick with the flu. Have plenty of soap and alcohol-based hand wash, medicines for fever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen), a thermometer, anti-diarrhea medication, vitamins, fluids with electrolytes, cleaning agents, flashlights, batteries, portable radio, manual can opener, garbage bags and tissues, toilet paper, and disposable diapers.
- Have an outbreak plan: Talk to you family about what you will do should a pandemic strike. Talk about the storage of food, how you will prepare meals, maintain a good supply of water, ensure sanitary conditions, and so on. Talk with extended members of the family. Do they have a plan? Is one memberís home a safer environment in terms of its ability to be more self-sustaining (more isolated, has access to water, firewood, etc.) and would it be a better environment for all if family members joined together should essential services like power and water be discontinued?
- Have emergency contacts and information ready: Have emergency numbers for fire departments, police departments, ambulance service, your family physician, and local hospitals and clinics. Keep the list somewhere safe and accessible. Make sure everyone knows where the list is kept. Additionally, for each member of your family, record blood type, allergies, past and current medical conditions, and a list of current medications and dosages.
- Chicken Little Syndrome: You may feel a bit like Chicken Little, running around stockpiling supplies and discussing plans. However, experts tell us it is not a matter of if, but when a pandemic will strike. Right now the H1N1 virus looks like a very good candidate to create a world-wide pandemic should it mutate or find a host carrying a different strain of flu virus with which it can joint to form a new, more deadly version of itself (genetic re-assortment). We all sincerely hope not. However, appropriate planning and preparation may well save your life and that of your family.
*This information was obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services. Their web site is http://www.pandemicflu.gov
Other sources of information: