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When a Pandemic is Present

Related Pages: Emergency Communications » Emergency Management

When a Pandemic is present, Emergency Management's Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) is ready to direct regional health and medical emergency preparedness initiatives.

Q:
What is the best way to protect myself from pandemic influenza?
 A:

Begin now to practice simple but important habits that reduce the spread of germs:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with ill persons.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when coughing and sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often. The key is to wash thoroughly with warm water, and to wash frequently.
  • When hand washing is not possible, use an alcohol based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Have a good home disaster preparedness plan.
Q:
If I feel “fluish,” should I ask my doctor to perform a particular test to check for the bird flu virus?
 A:

Only if you have a recently returned from travel to an area where bird flu is present. Depending on your symptoms, dates of travel and activities, additional testing might be recommended. Let your healthcare provider know about your travel history and if you had contact with poultry or bird markets.

Q:
Should I buy Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for my home?
 A:

Tamiflu is a prescription antiviral drug that works against influenza viruses. It is not known if it will be useful against a pandemic influenza virus. Tamiflu is not recommended for persons to keep at home in case of a pandemic.

Q:
Will there be enough Tamiflu for everyone if there is a global pandemic influenza outbreak, and if not, who will get it?
 A:

Although the federal government is stockpiling medical supplies and antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, no country in the world has enough Tamiflu to protect all their citizens.

Public health officials have recommended using available supplies of Tamiflu first to treat persons with severe infections that require hospitalization, and persons that will perform vital functions that the public will need in a pandemic. These groups include healthcare workers and emergency responders.

Because the drug needs to be taken every day for weeks in order to prevent influenza infections and the supply is limited, Tamiflu is not recommended for this purpose during a pandemic.

Tamiflu is currently manufactured by one company in Switzerland. Government agencies and the manufacturer of Tamiflu are attempting to find ways to negotiate with generic drug companies to increase production of the medicine.

Q:
Should I wear a mask at work to protect myself from pandemic influenza?
 A:

Masks are recommended for use in health care settings by ill persons and healthcare workers to prevent spread of infection. At this time, masks are not recommended for use by well persons in the community. There is no guarantee that masks would prevent the spread of the infection in the population.

If persons decide to wear masks during a pandemic influenza outbreak, it is likely they will need to wear them any time they are in a public place and when they are around other household members.

More information on the use of masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q:
Do I need to disinfect surfaces that have been in contact with a person with influenza?
 A:

Yes, wipe down any surfaces that may have been contaminated by saliva or other respiratory secretions.

Influenza viruses are known to survive on non-porous surfaces such as steel and plastic, for up to 24 to 48 hours after inoculation and from cloth, paper and tissues for up to 8 to 12 hours. Viable virus can be transferred from non-porous surfaces to hands for 24 hours and from tissues to hands for 15 minutes.

Use a household disinfectant labeled for activity against bacteria and viruses, an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant, or mix and use 1/4 cup chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water.

Q:
Why does it take so long to develop a pandemic influenza vaccine?
 A:

Vaccine production is a complicated process and lengthy process. The process can only begin once the virus is present in the human population.

Options to speed up the production of an effective pandemic vaccine are currently being evaluated by the US government.

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