Here's another reason to include emergency preparedness in your lifestyle at home -- the bird flu.
California's Department of Health Services (CDHS) recently released a draft of its bird flu battle plan "Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan" which includes steps households will have to take if a bird flu pandemic ensues.
It also suggest steps households should take now. Those steps are similar to steps necessary to prepare for any disaster -- natural or man made.
The bird flu making most of the news is designated avian influenza A (H5N1), a deadly version of avian influenza currently affecting domestic and wild birds in Asia, but spreading to other parts of the world. If it comes in contact with human strains of influenza it could mutate into a virus capable of human-to-human transmission and initiate a pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says since 1997 there have been more than 100 cases of human infection from various avian strains of influenza thought to have been caused by direct contact with infected fowl or contaminated surfaces.
The current H5N1 has caused about a half dozen deaths in China and more than 20 cases in Turkey.
How deadly an avian flu becomes isn't certain, but experts estimate as many as 35 percent of the U.S. population could become ill and there could be as many as 35,000 deaths in California alone.
CDHS says such a pandemic would disrupt all aspects of society and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Frequent, vigorous hand washing, an annual flu vaccine, covering your nose and mouth with coughing and sneezing and avoiding going into the public when you are sick are measures any responsible person should already take to ward off colds and the flu.
However, because the first six to 12 months of a pandemic would render vaccine's unreliable, quarantines and official orders to stay at home could become a reality, even if you aren't infected. That will mean an emergency preparedness cache of supplies will be crucial.
"Social distancing measures such as wearing masks, staying home if sick, and canceling school and public events," could be necessary, says the CDHS report.
Given the unknown duration of a pandemic, you may need more than the typical three days of food and water and other supplies recommended in a basic emergency preparedness kit, as well as a host of other items.
Read the CDHS's report, keep abreast of the bird flu situation on the CDC website and get your kit together now for a pandemic or any other emergency that could cut you off from essential goods and services.
The Red Cross offers ready-to-go kits and emergency kit checklist to help you build your own.
The kit should be in an easy-to-carry container from a camping backpack or duffel bag to a large covered trash container with wheels and placed in an easily accessible location based.
What should you pack inside? Here are the basics.
- One gallon of water per person per day.
- A three-day supply of nonperishable, compact, lightweight foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water. Pack a can of sterno for foods you must heat. Pack high energy foods, vitamins, food for infants and some comfort and stress foods.
- A first aid kit for your home and one for each car. The kit should at least include: sterile dressing, gauze, germicidal hand wipes or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer, medical grade non-latex gloves, adhesive tape, 2" width, anti-bacterial ointment, cold pack, scissors, tweezers, CPR breathing barrier, such as a face shield, non-prescription pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, Syrup of Ipecac, a laxative, activated charcoal.
- Mess kits, or paper cups, plates, and plastic utensils, an emergency preparedness manual, extra batteries for battery-operated devices including a radio, flashlight and other items, cash, travelers checks, change, utility knife with can opener, fire extinguisher, tube tent, hardware tools, water proofed matches, area map, signal flare, paper, pencils, whistle, and other items recommended by FEMA and the Red Cross.
- For sanitation you'll also need toilet paper, towelettes, Soap, liquid detergent, feminine supplies, plastic garbage bags and ties, a plastic bucket with tight lid, disinfectant, household bleach.
- Don't forget special items. A change of clothes, sturdy shoes or work boots, rain gear, sleeping gear, hats, gloves, etc.
- Personal items include baby items, prescription drugs, contact lenses or extra eye glasses, as well as games, books, small portable electronics, important family documents, records, numbers and identification, a household inventory and other items.
Change your stored water and food supply every six months. Examine your kit and family needs once a year to replace batteries, update clothes, etc.