Flu Preparedness Makes Good Sense

The flu season is rapidly bearing down upon our community. When the flu virus begins to impact Downey residents, City emergency services will experience an increase in calls for service and the local hospitals will become busier and sometimes back-logged with patients. The 'wait-time' at hospitals will likely increase and the number of available beds will decrease. Consequently, it makes good sense to take preventative steps like getting your annual flu shot and using universal precautions such as frequent hand washing.The media has devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to getting this year's flu season information out to the public. As of this writing the actual effects of the H1N1 flu virus and the seasonal flu virus are unknown. The consequences of the upcoming flu season and the media coverage of it are still unknown as well. However, nearly everyone has had the flu or been around someone who has contracted the virus. Being sick with any type of flu isn't an enjoyable experience. More than 30,000 Americans die from the seasonal flu each year. Some medical authorities have noted a rapid onset of flu type symptoms for patients with the H1N1 virus and the average duration of the illness is 5-7 days. If these findings continue into this flu season, it may be best to ensure adequate supplies are on-hand before someone gets sick rather than heading to the nearest 24/7 retailer when you or your family member has contracted the flu. The uncertainty of how the upcoming flu season will affect our lives and our community elicits many questions for individuals, families and businesses. Planning now for potential problems (and possibly avoiding them) is the best way to prepare yourself and your family for the flu-season. Ask yourself, How will I address these issues? •What will parents / workers do when their children need care at home during the workweek? •What will business owners and managers do to maintain their business operations if a significant (or critical) portion of their workforce is unavailable to work? •What are the alternatives to traditional after school student /child care situations? •What might neighbors and friends contribute to a family's childcare and daily operational needs? •What if a single parent is sick (or both parents are sick)? Who will do the shopping and caring for the family? Who will transport the children to and from school if the parents are sick? •What are the policies and procedures for employees who need time-off from work to stay at home with children, spouses or older family members? •What work practices can be implemented to support workers who live alone and who need care? •What supplies could be stored at the workplace to support continuous operations? (i.e. to break the dependence on daily deliveries) •What food and water supplies could be stored at home to support each individual and family for 3-7 days? •What medical supplies could be purchased and kept at home to reduce the impact the flu virus on a family? Thankfully, many actions can be taken to reduce the chances of an individual coming down with the flu: •Get a flu-shot for the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains •Thoroughly and frequently wash your hands, with soap (especially before eating) for 15-20 seconds •Don't touch eyes, nose, or mouth with un-washed hands •Consider door handles and other public hand-holds contaminated and be aware your hands may need washing afterward. •Use a paper towel to open a bathroom door when leaving the room •Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, then dispose of it properly in a trash can •Stay away from those who cough and sneeze without covering their mouth and nose •Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm when caught without a tissue •If you are sick, stay home, get early care and get well before returning to work •Encourage sick co-workers to stay home if they are sick with flu-type symptoms •Consider some 'social distancing' measures such as: •discontinuing the daily practice shaking hands •increasing communications using the phone or electronic messaging •working from home •providing alcohol-based hand washing solution in common areas •providing trash cans for discarding used hand towels and tissues.

********** Published: September 11, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 21