For current NM flu information visit www.health.state.nm.us/flu/ or call toll-free the NM Influenza hotline at 1-800-432-6866. Frequently asked questions and answers are also available on the DOH website. Or visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website www.cdc.gov/flu.
PANDEMIC: ARE YOU READY? [updated 8/2/06]
Avian and Pandemic Flu
The best source for current information on either is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or CDC. Pandemic flu is a global outbreak of flu, no matter what kind. Pandemic flu: www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic/. See also www.pandemicflu.gov. Avian flu refers to the influenza virus found in birds. Avian flu is NOT pandemic flu--unless you are a bird! Avian flu strain H5N1 has been confirmed in wild and/or domestic birds in Asia, Africa, and Europe. H5N1 has not yet (6/2006) been confirmed in wild and/or domestic birds in the USA, but Department of Interior officials say they expect it to hit wild bird populations this year. www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/.
The CDC predicts that a global flu epidemic—pandemic—is not a question of if but when. And it will be an avian strain. The last three pandemics of the 20th century, including the 1918 pandemic, were all avian strains. This is why strain H5N1 is being monitored so closely.
Avian flu (strain H5N1) has devastated the poultry industry in southeast Asia, is spreading globally in wild and domestic birds, and has caused over 100 human deaths to date. Humans have little immunity to avian flu, and this is why it is so deadly. The annual, seasonal flu vaccine will not prevent avian flu from taking hold in humans, and medicines for treating pandemic flu are already expected to be in limited supply.
Pandemics cause major economic losses due to absenteeism. Up to 30% of the workforce will either miss work due to sickness or stay home due to fear. The economic impact of H5N1 will be felt around the world. The impact will initially appear in two primary aspects of business: Availability of the workforce, and impact in and on the market place. This is different than business or emergency plans that largely assume destruction of physical infrastructure due to natural or human-caused disaster. How will business and governments keep operating with 30% of their workforce unavailable over the course of months or even several years?
Guidance for protecting health care, agricultural, food service and other workers from avian flu has been published by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) here: www.osha.gov/dsg/guidance/avian-flu.html. Get your employees ready.
Moreover, quarantine, whether self- or government-imposed, is highly likely as governments and employers seek to limit the spread of the disease. This includes worldwide quarantines on state and national borders. In a global economy, transportation / shipping will suffer mightily in a pandemic. Goods will not move, and shortages will happen.
The state of NM has an as yet untested public health law that allows the governor to impose quarantine on any or all of the population.
Visit www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic/business.htm for tools for employers, including a business pandemic flu planning checklist. The federal government just released Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Response and Recovery Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources.
What is the County Doing?
The County OEM is working closely with LAMC, LANL, other local entities, and state health officials to prepare for pandemic flu here. If you/your organization should be a part of the County task force on pandemic flu, please contact Phil Taylor at 505-663-3511.
What is the State Doing?
At the state level, the Department of Health and the NM Office of Emergency Management are also active in preparing for pandemic flu. See the NM DOH Pandemic Flu Plan on the DOH homepage: www.health.state.nm.us/. See also this joint agency website at www.nmbirdflu.org.
Avian Flu Prevention in Birds & Animals
If you raise poultry, whether 10 or 10,000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has must-read information on keeping your poultry flu-free, and for reporting sick birds. See also this CDC site for protecting birds and pets: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/issues/. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has a FAQs site answering questions about how to prevent spread of avian flu in the kitchen and on the farm. See this page: Avian Flu Q&A. FAQs on food safety are here: Food Safety.
Information on the results of wild bird testing in the USA can be found here: http://wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/ai/.
Individuals and Families: Be Ready.
More and more information is available on the web advising you how to prepare for pandemic flu.
www.nmsu.edu site has practical, everyday things you can do to protect yourself and your animals.
The U.S. government pandemic flu site has this information for you and your family: www.pandemicflu.gov/planguide/. All preparation starts with a basic family disaster kit (see the "Family Disaster Preparedness" link on the left sidebar here for more information), but pandemic flu will require additional preparation, since the disruption to the economy is likely to be severe.
One of the best defenses against flu epidemics of any kind is basic hygiene.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze. Throw it away afterwards. Flu is spread through 'respiratory droplets.'
- Wash your hands often, or at least use hand sanitizing gels often.
- Teach your children this respiratory etiquette and insist on it for yourself and others.
- STAY HOME from work when you are ill.
- Keep your children home and their friends away when they are ill, period.