Conflict of Interest H5N1
posted by June 29 at 16:55 PMon
Can I express my love for Erica’s feature this week on the avian influenza? You really should read it.
The current bird-to-human form of the virus kills an astonishing number of those it infects; according to the World Health Organization, more than half of those who have contracted the virus from birds have died. Its impact is greatest among the young; in a study of more than 200 confirmed human avian flu cases conducted in early 2006, WHO found that just over half of all cases were in people under 20, and that the median age of those who caught the flu was 18. Of the youngest victims, the majority died; the majority of those older than 50 survived.
Unlike the typical annual influenza outbreak, deadly mostly for those very young or old, H5N1 kills people with the healthiest immune systems—people in their twenties. This virus, like the 1918 influenza, induces a panic response from our immune systems; for people in their twenties, it is your own immune system that does you in.
We have much better drugs to control the immune system, things like cortico-steroids. Still, you might find it difficult to get to a doctor when the pandemic comes:
King County, thanks in large part to the vigilant efforts of County Executive Sims, is perhaps the best-prepared county in the nation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’re actually prepared. If a severe pandemic hit tomorrow, King County would be in serious trouble. Hospitals, which have almost no excess capacity, would overflow immediately; the movement of goods through the port and freight rail systems would slow to a crawl; medicine supplies would run out; the mortuaries would fill up; and many basic functions of government would cease.
The best plan is not avoid getting infected. Here are some hints on how to that:
Avoid prolonged or close exposure to people who are infected.
Wash your hands. Start with the habit of washing every time you enter your home, and before every meal. For when soap and water isn’t available, carry some instant hand sanitizer—like Purell and with at least 60% alcohol—and use a dime-sized drop that will keep your hands wet for at least 10 seconds.
Use a surgical mask—available at drug or grocery stores—if you go out during the outbreak. It should be good enough to protect you from the virus-carrying droplets, provided you stay 3-6 feet away from someone coughing. And cover your own coughs.
Stock up on food and water.
Something like Erica’s plan
Here’s what’s in my personal stockpile: One 20-pound bag of rice; one gallon jar of pickles; four 40-ounce cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli (a childhood indulgence I would never allow myself to have in “real” life); two weeks’ worth of bottled water, allocating one gallon per person per day; several assorted cans of beans; several large cans of soup; a large box of crackers; a half-gallon jar of peanut butter; canned vegetables, including corn and green beans; several pounds of pasta and jars of pasta sauce; a half-dozen aseptically packaged boxes of broth and soup; cereal; vitamins; toilet paper; tea; and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember.
is a pretty good place to start. Add in a whole bunch of batteries, a flashlight and a radio and you’re there.
Having a functional social network, simply knowing your neighbors, is also key. Go introduce yourself.
Finally, given we live under volcanos, and over three fault lines, it might be wise to take a Community First Aid and Safety class with the Red Cross. That way you’ll know how to help the people in your network. Knowing how to operate a bag-valve-mask, stop dense bleeding, splint a limb or treat shock might make a huge difference.