Flu Pandemic can be deadly - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Flu Pandemic can be deadly

June 16, 2006

Albany - - The danger of a flu pandemic is increasing. Usually, flu vaccines protect most of us. But health leaders worry a new strain like bird flu could end up spreading uncontrollably,and we need to be ready.

If you want to avoid the flu, you can wash your hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and keep your distance from others who are sick. But how do you prepare for a massive outbreak of the flu?

You can't predict when it will strike.

"We don't know when, we don't know where. But it can happen and that's why wer'e here today, to prepare," says Dr. Jacqueline Grant, District Health Director.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, as well as an influenza pandemic can happen at anytime and it can be deadly. Just take a look at history.  1918 was the worst year, more than 500,000 people died in the U.S. In 1957, 70,000. And in 1968, 34,000 people died nation-wide, 700,000 world-wide. That's what makes it a pandemic - widespread death.

In the U.S. alone, hundreds of thousands of people have to take a trip to the hospital because of influenza.

"36,000 people die annually from flu. When there's a pandemic, you're talking much higher numbers that can easily get into the millions," Grant says.

So area health leaders want community leaders to develop plans for their businesses and their families on how to respond if there's a pandemic here.

 "There are some people that are doing some work around pandemic influenza planning, there are others that are not," says Julie Miller with Emergency Preparedness.

It's best to do it now, she says, because chances are you won't think about it if you push it to the side.

"It is a little different than our traditional tornado warning, hurricane alerts, etc. but it is something that is real. It is something that is very much on the radar, something that peopole need to be aware of," Miller says.

So here's what you can do. Store a 2 week supply of water and food in case you can't make it to the store or the store is out of supplies. If you're on prescription drugs, ask your doctor for an extra supply. And have any non prescription durgs on hand.

Representatives from area health departments will hold similiar forums in other counties over the next couple of months.

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