Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Appropriate Level Of Concern (Revisited)



# 3821


Last May, nearly 5 months and 600 blogs ago, I wrote a piece called An Appropriate Level Of Concern, where I attempted to lay out my sense of the seriousness of the emerging H1N1 virus, and what people should be doing to prepare for it.


I’ve kept the essay on my sidebar since then, but a lot has happened in the last 150 days.


When I wrote that piece, a pandemic had not yet been declared.  We’d not seen how the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season played out, nor had we seen the slow burn north of the equator over the summer.


While I believe nearly everything I wrote then still applies, a little updating is certainly in order. 

Therefore, I thought today we’d revisit the subject.



An Appropriate Level Of Concern (Revisited)


It’s question I ask myself every day.


Just how concerned should the average (insert your nationality here, AFD gets visitors from more than 100 countries) be about this novel H1N1 pandemic virus?


It isn’t an easy question to answer. 


Particularly since many people have a bad tendency to either ignore a threat completely, or go overboard in an extreme over-reaction to it.


In view of what we’ve seen over the summer months,  I still believe that what is needed is more of a measured `middle-ground’ approach.


To date, the H1N1 virus has produced a High Morbidity - Low Mortality pandemic.  It is making millions of people sick, and has sent tens of thousands to hospitals . . . but the number of deaths appears (so far, anyway) to be relatively low. 


Distressingly, this flu has a predilection for younger adults and children, which amplifies its impact.  Those over the age of 65 have been largely spared by this virus.


That could change, of course. 


Influenza viruses are unpredictable, and capable of swift mutation or reassortment with other viruses.  The pandemic we have next month or next year may be far different from what we are seeing today.


But for now, 99 out of 100 flu victims are recovering at home, without the need for antivirals or antibiotics.  For the unlucky 1% who see worse symptoms, however, it can be a very serious illness.


Governments are beginning to distribute a vaccine, have deployed antiviral stockpiles to each state here in the US, and are handling the `macro’ issues that are well beyond the scope of individual citizens. 


They can do a lot, but they can’t do it all.


Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations must all do their part to prepare, as well.  And not just here in the United States, but around the world.


This blog, of course, continually reminds its readers of the importance of overall preparedness.


We live in a dangerous world, where earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods  . . . and even more mundane events like auto accidents, or slips and falls at home  . . . can ruin your entire day.


As a former paramedic, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good first aid kit at home, and in your car.  And just as important, learning how to properly use one.




Taking a first-aid course, and CPR training, are both investments that could pay off big someday, for you, and for your loved ones. 


And every home should have no less than a 72-hour supply of emergency food and water, for all of its occupants (including pets!).   This is a bare minimum, but is just the starting point.


Here in the United States, the HHS (along with other agencies) recommend that households work towards having `at least’ 2-weeks worth of food, water, and emergency supplies on hand.


Other agencies and organizations have proposed 30 days, 60 days, and even 3-months as being prudent.  If not specifically for this pandemic, for disasters in general.


Obviously, not everybody can do that.  But anything you do to prepare beats not preparing at all.


As, along with FEMA, and a host of other agencies remind us, we all need to be prepared for emergencies.





You and your family need a comprehensive emergency plan, that covers the big emergencies like natural disasters, or where to meet if you get separated, and one that covers lesser disruptions like school closures.


Having alternative child-care arrangements set up in advance this fall and winter could pay huge dividends this school year.


If you haven’t downloaded Dr. Grattan Woodson's Home Treatment of Influenza guide, you need to now. 

And then read it.  Before you need it.


While you are at it, take some time to explore his website.  It is chock full of good information.



If your own, or help run a business, organization, or agency you should also be preparing that entity to deal with any disaster – including a pandemic.


image’s business preparedness site has information to help you prepare to weather many emergencies.  For a a pandemic, however, you need to be doing a bit more.


The HHS has a workplace planning page, that gives checklists and advice on things that can help keep your business operational during a pandemic.


And once our families, and our businesses are taken care of, it is important to think about our neighborhoods and our communities.


Volunteering with the Red Cross, or CERT, your Neighborhood watch, or just checking on your neighbors is a good place to start.


And if you aren’t already, try to become a Flu Buddy to a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker.  A flu buddy is someone who can check in with you if you get sick, fetch medicines or emergency aid if needed, and make sure you aren’t in difficulty if you get sick.


The `Flu Buddy’ concept is one that I’ve personally been pushing since about 2007,  and you can find my latest scribe on the subject in my sidebar:



Karen, aka Readymom has taken that essay and massaged it a bit (and improved it, I think) and has posted it on her SCRIBD account, where anyone can download it for free.




We are each only as prepared as our neighbors.


And of course, we need to follow the advice of our public health agencies and keep washing our hands frequently, using alcohol hand sanitizer, covering our coughs, and staying home if ill.


The H1N1 vaccine, which is now starting to become available in the US, appears to be a good match for the virus - and should be no riskier than the seasonal vaccine – which has an excellent safety record.


And although seasonal flu strains have yet to make an appearance this year (and may not), it is still probably a good idea to get the seasonal flu shot as well.  If for nothing else, protection against the `B’ strain which generally has its biggest impact in late Spring.


The CDC is urging those who are at high risk of pneumonia to avail themselves of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV).  Incredibly, only about 16% of the target population in the US has taken this protective shot.


Although I don’t offer medical advice in this blog, I have long suggested that people consult with their primary care provider about the advisability of taking the PPV – even if you aren’t sure you fall into a recommended category.


So . . . what is the appropriate level of concern you should have about this H1N1 pandemic?



Well . . . if you’ve followed the advice that has been offered by this blog and numerous agencies for the past several years  and . . .

  1. have a good family and business emergency plan
  2. have acquired at least a 2-week supply of emergency supplies
  3. routinely practice good flu hygiene 
  4. get the appropriate vaccines when they are available
  5. have and are a flu buddy 
  6. are looking out for your neighbors and greater community



. . . . then I think (for now, at least) you can simply keep a wary eye on developments and go about your life.  


I see no need to hunker down at home, or to live in fear over this virus.  This is a serious situation, of course. And tragically, this virus will claim thousands of lives over the next few months.


It certainly deserves your attention, vigilance, and respect


But not your fear.


Stay informed, of course.  Check back here, with, and with my fellow bloggers often.  It is, after all an evolving, important, and fascinating story. 


We are likely to remain at pandemic level 6 for a year, perhaps two.  Maybe longer.   This is the `flu normal’, and we all need to get used to living life in a pandemic.


If you’ve done all of these things, and this pandemic hits your community hard (or a hurricane, or a flood, or a forest fire . . . ), you will be about as well prepared to deal with it as you can reasonably expect to be.


The point, you see, isn’t to be afraid. 


The point is to be prepared.  Then you can sleep easily at night.


If you haven’t done these things . . .  well, I’d certainly be concerned enough to start working towards getting them done.


The appropriate response right now is to stay informed, get prepared, and plan how you and your family or business will deal if a pandemic wave, or any other emergency, comes along.


Try it. 


You’ll be amazed how good being prepared feels.




For more preparedness information check out






For Pandemic Preparedness Information:

HHS Individual Planning Page

For more in-depth emergency preparedness information I can think of no better resource than  GetPandemicReady.Org.    Admittedly, as a minor contributor to that site, I'm a little biased.

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