So we have an unusual strain of influenza that combines genetic elements of swine flue and avian flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it has pandemic potential, the Centers for Disease Control says that further spread cannot be contained, and in the past twenty-four hours cases are popping up in Texas, California, Kansas, and New York City. Add to this the unusual number of deaths in Mexico, where the strain appears to have originated, among young people who are not usually among the fatalities from influenza, and that in Mexico City the government has banned public events for ten days due to the outbreak.
Consider that we live in a highly mobile society in which an infected person could spread a contagion to thousands of people across the country within hours. Stephen King was probably not the first, but his novel The Stand gives a plausible illustration of how it could happen. One infected traveller in Los Angeles boarding a flight for New York with stopovers in any Midwestern city has the potential to spread this new influenza threat far and wide before many would even suspect they have been exposed.
If this is like the usual yearly flu outbreaks, we may have nothing more than a few days downtime from exposure. However, the number of deaths in Mexico at this time of the year, and the news coverage given to this outbreak have me worried. Some things that I am doing to try and be prepared for this are:
--Keeping updated on news sources for new outbreaks and the level of fatalities.
--Putting additional emphasis on keeping clean, washing hands, and disinfecting surfaces which get touched frequently.
--Having a supply of N95 face masks handy in case things get dicey along with a supply of latex gloves, extra disinfectants, and extra chlorine bleach.
If it appears that this influenza strain has a high mortality factor we are already prepared to stay indoors for several weeks. However, in the meantime we still have to go to work to keep the bills paid. I want to have protection in case this influenza has the potential to make one gravely ill. I'm not convinced that a pandemic is here, but I am concerned and getting prepared.
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