Lakewood First Lions were updated May 24 on the possibility of an avian pandemic in Pierce County and what steps need to be taken to avoid or lessen the impact of personal infection.
In her presentation Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department’s Charron Plumber, while warning against panic and excessive reaction to stories about avian flu, laid out a hierarchy of steps recommended for reducing chances of personal infection, the probability of passing on the infection, and for coping with the occurrence of a pandemic.
As brought out in the presentation, a pandemic is an epidemic gone global. While such an event is not imminent it is none-the-less a very real possibility that can strike with very little advance warning.
The consequences, according to the history of pandemics and epidemics, could mean fully one third of the U.S. population might become infected, with 2% of those losing their lives to the disease. In 1918 as many as 700,000 Americans lost their lives to a flu outbreak, with as many as 150 million world-wide succumbing.
Should the avian flu strike with force in Pierce County the results could be considerable negative social and economic impact. With only 800 beds available in the county there will not be the capacity to care for the estimated 25,000 potential patients that could be infected.
To be better prepared for such a catastrophic event health experts are advising residents to store up to three weeks of food and supplies. These should be acquired now if possible, as once the flu spreads it may be inadvisable to venture into public areas for shopping.
Once a pandemic strikes at least one third of employees may not show for work, causing some businesses and industries to completely shut down. Remaining home from work is actually one critical element in preventing wide contamination among the workforce. In addition, Plumber said, all non-critical business and social functions should be canceled, and all citizens should reduce their exposure to only those outside ventures that are necessary for daily survival or sustenance.
Basic preventative measures should be practiced at all times, both to establish good habits for the possibility of a pandemic and for general well-being now. Among those steps are the obvious: cover coughs in your elbows to avoid contaminating your hands and thereby continuing the spread of disease; wash hands frequently and reduce contact between hands and facial areas to reduce chances of spreading disease into critical areas of the mouth, nose, eyes and ears; stay home if you begin feeling ill; keep up with the news to get as much legitimate advance warning as possible; and check with medical professionals for the availability of effective flu shots.
Additional information is available on the TPCHD web site, www.tpchd.org.
Submitted by Ed Kane/Freelance Graphics, Lakewood