When WHO World Health Organization declares the h1n1 flu to be a pandemic (and they will) it will come with a “Moderate” severity warning according to keiji Fukuda WHO interim assistant director – general for health security and environment. “It is fair to call the situation moderate. We know this infection can be fatal in a number of individuals. This includes people who have some underlying medical conditions and it includes women who are pregnant – but it also includes people who are perfectly healthy. So we do have some hesitation calling such an infection mild” said Fukuda. (Source WebMD – “WHO: World Closer to Swine Flu Pandemic”) Like many I had hoped that the severity would remain mild, but it doesn’t look like that will happen.
According to the article “The WHO has been dragging its feet over declaring a worldwide pandemic to avoid causing undue alarm and to allow it time to develop specific guidance for different parts of the world.”
I’ve been reading the book, “The Great Influenza”, by John M. Barry. This is the same book that Pres. Obama is reading, and recommended by infection disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm. Mr. Barry gives a warning in the last chapter called “Afterword.” He says that a MILD pandemic would be more deadly today then the one in 1968 due to several reasons. 1) More people today have impaired immune systems like the “elderly, cancer survivors who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation, transplant recipients, those infected with HIV, and others.” Recently Dr. Richard Daines, NYS Health Commissioner, said that some underline medical conditions are “lung disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and pregnancy.” Mr. Barry noted that in past pandemics those “most likely to die were pregnant women.” 2) Barry goes on “…even in advanced countries a Pandemic would stretch the health care system to the point of collapse, and beyond it.” This is due to cutting cost and fewer hospital beds then during the 1968 pandemic. In hospitals there will be a shortage of life saving respirators due to the number of ill.
Mr. Barry, and Dr. Osterholm, and others have warned of trade being disrupted during a pandemic today. They warn that medical supplies like antibiotics, hypodermic needles, and hospital masks could run out. Even food supplies and chlorine (that purifies our water) might be interrupted. Services like electricity, and garbage disposal could be interrupted, partly due to a high number of absent workers due to illness. A pandemic will also be a blow to our economy.
In the past Dr Osterholm has recommended that we stockpile 4 to 5 weeks of necessary supplies to better prepare ourselves. I believe that we are not being told to save supplies today because it might cause panic. The following is a checklist of general supplies…
*Prescription Medication & Vitamins
*Flashlight & batteries
*Paper Products – tissues & toilet paper
*Baby Products – formula, diapers
*Extra Cash on hand
*A “Family Plan” (to stay home during a flu outbreak if necessary)
*I would add a means to heat your house because of possible electrical interruptions.
The scenario Mr. Barry writes is one of a mild pandemic, however, this fall we will be hit with a moderately sever pandemic which will amplify these problems. A pandemic usually lasts 1-2 years, and comes in waves. One day we might find the city we live in shut down like Mexico was. Churches, schools, restaurants, food markets were closed, and everyone was asked to stay home for a week or so. It could happen to us. Trade is expected to be interrupted during a pandemic affecting the availability of some necessary items at times. I hope that you will save 4 to 5 weeks of necessary items so that you are more prepared for the two flues that will hit us this fall. One of these flu’s will come with a bit of a bite.
UPDATE: I found this website - pandemicflu.gov by the U.S. government. It has some good information. It suggests saving 2 weeks of supplies, but I've heard 4-5 weeks by an expert.
Related Story by Associated Press: "WHO says it may declare swine flu pandemic soon"