According to the CDC, this year’s flu season will cause the worst outbreak that we’ve seen in ten years. The best way to understand how to avoid getting the flu, and prepare for when it strikes is to understand the nature of the virus itself. What’s important: is the 2012-2013 virus epidemic? Is it pandemic also?
The term “epidemic” refers to a regularly occurring sickness that, in its most recent rendition, has gone way off of the usual charts for past outbreaks. An epidemic illness basically means a sickness that ends up spreading way more than it has in the past, and more than it was expected to. A “pandemic” illness is an epidemic illness that reaches huge numbers of people across a large area, like a continent. So the question is – will this year’s flu become an epidemic illness?
According to a Decoded Science article by Janelle Vaesa, the flu has affected 10x more people than expected in Boston, going from 70 in the past to an ever-rising 700 sick individuals today. Now, Boston has declared a health emergency. According to her article, the rate of regular baseline for office visits for flu-like illnesses on December 29 of last year was “5.6 percent, over twice the baseline amount of visits. During the H1N1 flu season, office visit rates peaked at 7.7 percent. The percentage of flu-related deaths during that time frame was 7% – just under the epidemic threshold of 7.1%.”
Thinking about these scary statistics, we as parents, grandparents, and caretakers have one big question: how can I prepare for the 2013 flu? Here are four things you can do NOW just in case you or your kids get the flu and you’re stuck at home:
1. Have the ingredients for an easy chicken soup at your disposal: keep noodles and canned chicken in the pantry, have lots of frozen vegetables, and keep soup stock in your pantry or freezer.
2. As always, wash your hands often, cover your cough, and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces like doorknobs and light switches. (Teach your kids to cover their cough and wash their hands too and your job will be a lot easier if you have lots of kids, or if you watch other people’s kids.)
3. Stock up on tissues and medicine – while you and your kids are still well, go to the store and buy a lot of tissues and medicine. (I suggest putting both of these out of reach when you get home, or you might come into a room carpeted with your tissue stockpile, and of course, medicine needs to stay out of reach of children for safety issues.) Preparing herbal remedies you rely on is also a good idea – better now than when you’re sick!
4. If you can, don’t go near anyone who is sick or shows suspicious symptoms. The best way to keep your kids safe is to keep them away from anyone with the flu. If you can’t, well, stick to the default and make sure they wash their hands frequently.
I’d rather simply avoid getting the flu, and I’m sure you’re the same, but being ready to take care of yourself and your family is the next best thing. There are currently Tamiflu and vaccine shortages, so watch out – you may not be able to use conventional means of prevention and/or treatment. In addition, not everyone is able to avoid large groups of people – even the grocery store is a haven for viruses, so make sure that you’re ready, just in case this flu season hits you and your family hard.