Monday, June 18, 2007

Pandemic Flu Preparedness: the Meme

has tagged me, via e-mail, to blog about pandemic flu preparedness.

Frankly, I know zip about pandemic flu preparedness. I know that a pandemic flu, like the one in 1918, would be a disaster of major proportions, and that we're not very prepared for anything like that here in the U.S. (we're not very prepared for most disasters, sad to say). I also know that if possible, the best way to avoid infection is to stay at home and avoid contact with other people; N=1 talks about that quite a bit in her post.

By coincidence, one of the chapters of my fourth novel, Driving to November, is set during the 1918 flu epidemic. The fantasy premise of the novel is that there's a magical, hidden valley in central Nevada (the Brigadoon of the West!). The only people who can get into it are those who've been conceived there or are traveling in close promixity to other people who have been. The advantages of such a valley are obvious: there are no property taxes, and it's a great place to hide stolen goods or hide from unpleasant external events, like flu pandemics. (Downside: no phone service or TV/radio reception, and some bad juju in the more magical parts of the valley . . . among other things.) Many of the conflicts in the book revolve around isolationism versus involvement -- different characters have very different opinions on how much they want to be a part of life Outside -- and in the 1918 chapter, one character is desperately awaiting the return of several others who've left the valley to meet a returning troop train (troops returning from WWI spread the flu, often along railroad lines).

So I've done a little bit of research on flu history, but my current flu preparation plan consists of getting a flu shot every year and washing my hands a lot. And in the event of a pandemic, that wouldn't cut it.

Okay, so I know zip, and I'm going to have to read all the linked sites here to catch up. In the meantime, here are N=1's instructions:

So here’s the challenge and the meme:

Become a pandemic flu preparedness blogger for a day.

Write a post about pandemic flu preparedness, add the banner gif to your website, supply at least a couple of links to pandemic flu preparation websites, and tag five or more bloggers.

Add two items to your next grocery shopping list to begin to stockpile essentials:

Some ideas for starters include jars of peanut butter, cans of beans, cans of tuna, salmon and other fish, cans of fruit, jars of applesauce, prepared pasta that doesn’t need refrigeration, cooking or rehydration, cans of vegetables, crackers, jars of tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce, cans of stew and hash, boxes of powdered milk, and bottled water and juice. On the medication side, have unexpired bottles of aspirin, acetominophen, naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, triple antibiotic cream, sterile gauze, pepto-bismol, and have bleach and a quaternary disinfectant on hand.

Here are some good references about pandemic flu planning:

Flu Stories: HHS Flu Summit Looks At Tool Kits

HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog

Trust For America’s Health
Banner: check. Links: check (even though I just stole N=1's links). Grocery list: . . . ummm . . . I guess I'll buy extra peanut butter and ibuprofen (such a yummy combination!). Tags: In the interests of spreading this information beyond the medblogging world, I hereby tag Lee, Inez, Elliot, JB, and Tom.

You get bonus points if you can write a funny post about pandemic flu preparedness (I know, I have a sick sense of humor), and/or if you can connect pandemic flu preparedness to any of the following topics: Cursillo, Quaker parrots, recumbent bicycles, Scripture, science fiction, yoga, tea, comics, or reasons to save the world.

You all know who you are.


  1. Thanks for the tag Susan! Mine is up although it isn't funny. It might be designed to save the education system. That's part of the world. (g)


  2. Kelly and I had a brief exposure scare this week (not an H5N1 strain, but still creepy nonetheless), and since I'm doing influenza research (both human and avian) all summer, this line of posts is going to make me deeply happy.

    On some level, I think Pat Frank's "Babylon" has influenced my ideas of "what might happen" far too much.

    As a sciencey/medical person, I cannot over-emphasize good public hygiene as one thing everyone can do to be prepared for any and all epidemics/pandemics. Hand washing and hand sanitizers, covering your mouth when you cough (if we all do it, it works best, of course), blowing your nose on a tissue and throwing it out right away, not picking your nose while typing (and maybe cleaning your hands after using a public keyboard), and so on. If you're in the habit of personal cleanliness now, you won't have to think about it should a problem arise.

    Getting a flu shot is great for all other types of the flu, but it won't do much should H5N1 really take off. That said, I'm a big fan, as existing flus are nasty enough.

    While we are "overdue" for a pandemic, one caveat is that we don't actually know how influenza season starts every year, let alone how seasonal an H5N1 pandemic would be, or how it would get to everyone (domestic versus wild birds? and do pigs have to be part of the equation? can the virus exist in a viable person-to-person form? etc). The body of research is growing, however, and I'm hopeful we'll have more answers in the next few years. If I find anything significant in my research this summer, I'll be sure to let you know.

    It never hurts to have a plan for any emergency situation, with variations for "hurricane - we should stick together" and "disease - we should stay away." At the very least, common sense approaches to "life preparedness" should be in place (some canned goods, flashlights, extra batteries, radio, etc) for any and all households, as an insurance policy.

    That said, I'll see what I can come up with perhaps later this afternoon (after I do my influenza research for the day). I wrote a post about it on my blog a year or more ago (found here), and not too much has changed since then (I updated the infection numbers).

  3. I been tagged! Mine's up, and while I think it's funny and informative, I've been wrong lots before.

  4. Anonymous4:00 PM

    This is fairly old advice, but you may find it helpful.

    I try to remember to rotate my emergency supplies every so often. Put a new bottle of ibuprofen in the emergency kit, take the old bottle out and put it with my regular meds for routine use, so the one in the kit doesn't expire. Same with juice.

    Adrian Turtle (

  5. I dread the day someone tags me with a meme... I bruise easy.


  6. Okay, I made my attempt, just to humor myself and see if I could, over here, though I didn't tag anyone else..... yet. I hope it makes you smile :). Congrats on your book, by the way - I can't wait to read it!

  7. Alexis: Great job! (I seem to have lost your e-mail address, or I'd have written you directly, as I did with Lee and Inez.) You get lots of bonus points!

  8. Thanks, Susan for blogging about pandemic flu preparation, and thanks to the other bloggers who wrote posts.

    It's pretty certain that HHS is tossing the ball on this. And what's scary is that they seem to have simply thrown the responsibility into the air, and no one is catching it, organizing a team and purchasing the equipment needed to fend off a pandemic flu.

    I'm still in the beginning phases of a learning curve, and one site that seems to be very informative, useful and kind to new learners i the Flu Wiki website.

    If you don't know where to start, I would suggest there. And start stockpiling for yourself and your family for 90 days. The HHS message is for three days to two weeks, but the science says that the flu will come in waves of between 6-8 weeks, and that there will be at least two waves of flu before the death rate slows, effective vaccine becomes available, and the vaccine has a chance to take effect.

    It appears that public health officials think that the biggest problem will be that folks won't have enough drinking water on hand. There is a real concern that municipal and public water supplies will be disrupted due to the deaths of engineers and water and utility workers. There is also an expectation that the electric grid will go down for long periods of time - days to weeks.


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