Preparing to deal with pandemics

Never heard of pandemics? Essentially they are epidemics that have spread across a large region, or even worldwide.

Still not clear? They are outbreaks of infectious diseases that can pass from person to person quickly. Most victims become very ill, and some die.

The Spanish Flu of World War I was a pandemic. It is estimated that at least 50 million people died from it in just a couple years.

The Black Death of the fourteenth century killed even more people. It is generally held that it was a vicious form of the Bubonic Plague.

Today the HIV virus that leads to AIDS is considered a pandemic. SARS and Avian Bird Flu are on the watch.

If an epidemic starts to spread, you will likely hear about it. Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization monitor outbreaks and keep the public informed.

Preparing to deal with pandemics

There are several problems we face with an outbreak. One is that it can spread rapidly due to the ease of global travel.

Another is that it will likely be a new strain of an old enemy and is now impervious to our old vaccines. New vaccinations take months to develop, and they cannot be developed until a new strain is identified.

So what can we do?

The first thing is to stay informed. The local news will keep you aware of new developments and the areas and activities to avoid.

Second, build a strong immune system. As well known, the U.S. diet has led to a rise in obesity and health issues. Stressful jobs and lifestyles also have degenerative effects on the body. Monitoring stress, eating right, getting adaquate sleep, and regularly exercising will boost your immune system.

Third, reduce your exposure. If an outbreak occurs in your area don’t make yourself an easy target. Extended periods of contact with many people will raise your likelihood of exposure. Be sure to wash hands more often than normal, and keep your home clean. Sometimes a respiratory mask and goggles will be recommended.

Finally, if you suspect exposure or infection contact your doctor or local hospital immediately. And of course don’t put your family and others in harm’s way.