Pandemics are worldwide epidemics that spread across the globe, affecting every continent rather than being confined to one geographic area. During flu pandemics, a higher than usual percentage of the population becomes infected and more people may become seriously ill or die from these infections than occurs during a typical annual flu season. Pandemics occur because a new influenza virus makes its way from birds or swine to humans, resulting in a strain for which we have very little immunity. Pandemics seem to occur about every 30 to 50 years.
Impacts of a pandemic
Pandemics can cause large surges in the numbers of people requiring or seeking medical or hospital treatment and be assured, Riverside has planned for the increased volume. In addition to adding staff and beds in our Emergency Rooms, we've also established a Flu Clinic in an annex of Riverside Regional Medical Center that will open when a surge in flu patients occurs. Please be aware that a pandemic may impact worker absenteeism, causing an interruption r delays in other essential services, such as law enforcement, transportation, and communication.
Duration of a pandemic
In an affected community, a pandemic outbreak will probably last two or three months. Pandemic influenza occurs in “waves,” with multiple waves possible. When it seems that the outbreak is over, another wave of infections may come along and affect our community yet again.
Controlling the spread of flu in a pandemic
The two main ways to limit and prevent the spread of flu are decreasing contact between infected and uninfected people, and decreasing the likelihood that contact, if it occurs, will result in infection. This may include travel restrictions, school closures, suspension of large public gatherings, isolation, and quarantine. In fact, because children are especially vulnerable to the flu, local hospitals including Riverside have changed visitation policies asking that children under the age of 18 NOT visit or come to the hospital unless they are ill and require care.
How can I prepare at home?
During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. It is wise to store a supply of water and food. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters.
You should have any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins. Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home. It is essential that you and your children cover your mouth when coughing and frequently wash your hands with soap and water.
What types of medical, health, and emergency supplies should I keep in my home?
Your family should have the following items on hand: prescribed medical supplies and medications; soap and water or alcohol-based hand wash; medicines for fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen; a thermometer; anti-diarrhea medication; vitamins; fluids with electrolytes; garbage bags; and tissues, toilet paper, and disposable diapers.