Emergency Preparedness: Pandemics and Bird Flu

  • 2017 Mutual Theme Bracelet

I made a 2 page
handout with information from PandemicFlu.gov for our Relief Society.

  • Experts claim it isn’t a question of IF bird flu happens, but WHEN. The only debatable thing about bird flu is just how deadly the flu will be when it jumps to humans. The 1918 flu outbreak, which is a cousin of the bird flu virus H5N1 that we’re concerned about, infected 28% of Americans. Bodies piled up in the streets. Funerals were limited to 15 minutes because of the extreme number of deaths. Perhaps most surprisingly about this virus strain, deaths were MOST prevalent among the healthiest in the population, those aged 20 to 40. Over 10 times as many people died in the influenza outbreak of 1918-19 as did in World War I in the US alone. 50 million died worldwide.
  • When bird flu hits, people will be largely on their own.Until seeing the Oprah show on bird flu (see the link below) I had always imagined we would all gather at the stake center in an emergency, compile resources and survive any incident. With bird flu, entire cities could be quarantined. Families could be unable to leave their homes, for several weeks at a time, possibly as long as 6 weeks. This could occur several times as travelers bring the virus back into a city after it has survived
    an earlier outbreak. A pandemic could last two years.
  • Young, healthy individuals could be most at risk.Unlike typical flu, which affects the elderly and infants the most, this flu virus could actually attack those with healthy immune systems, causing the system to go haywire (like the 1918 virus). Individuals between ages 20 and 40 are in far higher danger of death than children and the elderly. Pregnant women, who have extremely active immune systems, could be at the highest risk of fatality (see my personal note below). The last two pandemics
    that occurred in the United States affected infants and the elderly most.
  • The necessary mutations for a human bird flu outbreak already exist.Check out this May 5, 2006 article about bird flu. Bird flu isn’t passing easily from human to human yet, but the necessary mutations for that to occur already exist — they just haven’t been brought together yet.
  • Access to prescription drugs could be limited.Many drugs come from overseas and are shipped just a few days before we find them in the drugstore. In a pandemic, international trade could stop to prevent spread of the disease, and you may not be able to get needed drugs, even if your area is not quarantined.
  • Even Oprahis talking about bird flu and how horribly unprepared we are (January 24, 2006).From the World Health Organization, “Despite an advance warning that has lasted almost two years, the world is ill-prepared to defend itself during a pandemic. WHO has urged all countries to develop preparedness plans, but only around 40 have done so. WHO has further urged countries with adequate resources to stockpile antiviral drugs nationally for use at the start of a pandemic. Around 30 countries are purchasing largequantities of these drugs, but the manufacturer has no capacity to fill these orders immediately. On present trends, most developing countries will have no access to vaccines and antiviral drugs throughout the duration of a pandemic.”

What you should add to your food storage to prepare

  • Food and water – to last 2-5 weeks. Your food should require minimal water to prepare. Be sure you have infant formula or special food items on hand!
  • Prescription drugs – if possible
  • Chlorine – to purify water (Speak with your city officials to see how much they have on hand. Most have only enough to last 4-5 days)
  • Hand Sanitizer / Solid Surface Disinfectants / Hand Soap – to kill germs and prevent spread of disease. These products include Lysol or Purell. Remember that Purell only kills germs, it does not clean your hands!
  • Flu symptom treatments – like diarrhea relief, fluids containing electrolytes, fever and pain relievers, etc. (Motrin, Gatorade, Pepto Bismol, etc.)
  • Disposable Tissues – to prevent spread of germs (Kleenex, Puffs, etc.)
  • Garbage Sacks
  • Train children and yourselves to properly wash hands – hand washing, done properly, kills avian flu. Use soap and wash for a minimum of 20 seconds — twice through the “A B C D … Now I know my ABCs” song will do it.
  • Learn how to treat a patient with bird flu, and minimize infecting yourself – do not touch surfaces or objects patients have touched without cleaning the objects with Lysol; stay away from the patient when he coughs or sneezes; wash your hands every time you
    leave the patient; restrict the number of people attending him. (See Bird Flu FAQ)

Most cities also do not have plans to bury large numbers of dead in a respectful matter. Speak with your city council to see if they have or will make plans to answer such an emergency. Remember the bodies lying in the street in New Orleans after Katrina?

Talk to your boss about working from home options. What will you do if you have no money coming in for several weeks?

Surgical masks won’t help unless they are totally sealed. The virus can live outside a mask for up to 3 days, too, not to mention the fact that the virus will be on your clothing and skin when you take off the mask. So, stockpiling masks is unnecessary.

My Opinions Below

My opinions for church leaders, not expert advice, follow:

  • You should have the telephone numbers (home and cell) and email addresses of your ward or branch members to use in case your community is quarantined or transportation is limited. Since bird flu doesn’t involve physical catastrophe, it’s at least possible we could still
    have electrical power in an emergency. This communication could relieve the tension pent up during a period of extended isolation, or could help members reach or get supplies to those in desperate circumstances.
  • Remember that public gatherings may cease, including church services. Plan accordingly. Do your priesthood holders know how get  permission to administer the sacrament at home?
  • Ensure that everyone in your unit has access to a battery-operated radio and a stockpile of batteries to receive local updates.
  • Develop a working phone tree. Usually this is done with home teaching lists, so be sure that all home teachers always have a current list of thier families. Practice using it.
  • I gave a fast Sunday lesson on the Signs of the Times in Relief Society a few weeks back. At that time, we were teaching from the October 2005 Ensign. In 4 of the 5 sessions of that conference (see below), there were full blown talks dealing specifically with the signs of the times.  We don’t have to freak, but we should follow the counsel of our leaders and get prepared.

Even if bird flu never jumps to humans…

… we know that a “desolating scourge” is coming as part of the signs preceeding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Preparing for bird flu can help you get ready for such an event, even if bird flu isn’t the Big Nasty.

And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them … And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound. And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel; But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another. (D&C 45:19, 2533; emphasis added.)

Suggested Bird Flu Activity

Show the Oprah episode Bird Flu: The Untold Story from January 24, 2006. (You’ll probably have to call The Oprah Show to get a copy.) Then pass out the Preparedness Survey. Teach why and how to wash hands. Teach what products you should store in case of a pandemic (Lysol, hand soap). Read lots of quotes from the following list of recent Ensign talks addressing the signs of the times. Be sure the tone of the meeting is uplifting, not scary. Basically you’re teaching, “be smart, not scared”; because “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38: 30)

Handout

I made a handout with information from PandemicFlu.gov for our Relief Society.

Preparing for the Coming Influenza Pandemic by Grattan Woodson

A personal story

My grandmother was born during the 1918 flu pandemic. She and her mother (my great-grandmother) were the only pair of mother and newborn to survive the flu that year in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. The H5N1 virus is a kissing cousin to the virus that caused that flu. (Remember that those with strong or extremely active immune systems, like pregnant women, are most affected by bird flu.)

References

Resources I used in writing this article:

  • PandemicFlu.gov – The US government’s flu pandemic site. Has lots of docs and checklists you could use as handouts at an activity. I recommend the Pandemic Flu Guide PDF which has checklists of items you should store and lots of good information.
  • A video tape of the January 24, 2006, Oprah episode, “Bird Flu: The Untold Story”Avian FLU FAQ from the World Health Organization
  • History of the 1918 flu pandemic – Stanford University
  • Lysol Cold and Flu Prevention Guide
  • WHO flu pandemic threat site

Other Resources