It seems that the President and Congress are finally getting the hint that the Avian Flu Virus might be something to prepare for ahead of time. Living in Japan where I’m living a lot closer to where they predict the outbreak will first occur, I’ve been thinking about how to prepare to lesson the risks of getting it. While this is for practical reasons (if several million people are going to die, I don’t want to be one of them), it also has a financial aspect to it.
For those of you who haven’t been following this story, there is a new flu virus that is currently being carried by birds in Asia. Since this is a totally new flu virus, we (as in the human race) have no immunity to it. While it isn’t a problem at this point (because it isn’t easily passed between humans at the moment – although 65 people have contracted by being close to birds and have died), many experts are saying it’s just a matter of time before it does mutate and can be passed along easily from human to human. When this happens, a pandemic will occur (as has happened in the past) and it’s likely millions will die. Not a real fun thought.
Even if you don’t die, if you contract the virus, you’re going to be sick in bed for awhile. If that does happen, you’re not going to really be thinking about lost productivity (because at that point, you’ll be feeling really, really lousy and probably won’t care about anything beyond getting well), but since I’m in the preparation stage, I can.
The likelihood is you’ll be out not for a few days, but a few weeks. Depending on your source of income, that could mess up your finances quite a bit. So here are some tips I have for preparing for when it does arrive and preventing from getting it. Yes, the preparation will cost a bit of money, but it will be well worth it and you’ll thank me that you did.
1. Buy a good supply of surgical masks: You can get these at your local drug store or home improvement store. Once the outbreak happens, there will be a run on these at your local stores and they soon won’t be available. Supply and demand will cause their prices to rise quite a bit in second hand markets like ebay. How do I know? That is exactly what happened in Japan when the SARS outbreak occurred.
The masks are not so much for preventing people from coughing directly in your face as keeping your hands away from your nose and mouth. The virus is much more likely to be transmitted as follows than you getting coughed on directly in the face:
– Someone with the virus touches his nose getting the virus on his hand
– He opens a door leaving the virus on the door knob
– You opened the same door after him getting the virus on your hand
– you unconsciously touch your nose contracting the virus
Which brings us to number
2. Get in the habit of washing your hands regularly: As a former teacher with lots of kids running around with runny noses, you learn to wash your hands constantly to make it through the school year without getting sick. If you have kids, get them in the habit of washing their hands several times a day (the more the better). Once the flu comes, if they aren’t in the habit of washing their hands often already, you aren’t going to be able to teach them in that short period of time.
3. Wash thoroughly: From what I’ve read, bacterial soap in itself won’t kill the flu virus, but the main reason to wash you hands isn’t to kill it.
“The soap isn’t meant to kill the bug, its purpose is to make your hands slippery, so the virus slides off under water.”
That means taking the time to wash hands thoroughly so all the virus slips off.
4. When the outbreak occurs, change your habits: You’re not going to be able to lock yourself inside when the outbreak occurs since it will last a full season (several months), but avoiding crowds will be a good habit to get into. Crowds are always an easy place for the flu to spread. If you have kids with play groups or other activities, you’ll want to consider cancelling them for a season.
5. Get the vaccine immunization when available: I doubt the government will have enough medication to go around when the flu outbreak occurs and the limited supplies they have will go to high risk patients (elderly, children, those with compromised immune systems, etc). The fact is, antibiotics don’t work on the flu virus (they work on bacteria), so there is little the doctor can do once you get sick. Since the virus will be totally new, even the drugs that doctors think may help in reality may or may not, so you don’t want to count on these (thus prepare not to get it in the first place). Once the virus is identified, however, they will culture it to make a vaccine. As soon as that vaccine is ready and available, get immunized with it.
As with many things, taking the time to prepare and spending a little money upfront can save you a lot down the road. This is certainly one time it’s worth preparing for an even that is sure to come in our lifetime.