If we were hit with a flu pandemic, it would spread the same way regular flu circulates. The virus would stow away in tiny droplets that spray from an infected person's cough or sneeze. You could catch the flu simply by standing too close to a sick person who's hacking or sneezing, or by touching a door handle after him. To make matters worse, you can spread flu for one or two days before you even feel sick. That means you can be contagious without realizing it.
Fighting the flu
These tips can help tame the spread of a pandemic flu bug. Better yet, they can all work right now to fight regular seasonal flu, too.
- Wash your hands well, and often. Experts call handwashing the single most effective way to stop germs in their tracks. Use warm water and soap, and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
- When you don't have access to soap and water (when you're in the car, for instance), use alcohol-based hand wipes or gel. These products can kill off many germs fast.
- Get a flu shot every year. Although it won't help in the face of a pandemic virus, it will fight regular seasonal flu, keeping your immune system strong and better able to resist other illnesses. If you are not sure if getting the flu shot is safe for you or a family member (for example, due to specific allergies, pregnancy, chronic disease, or age), speak to your family doctor or pharmacist first.
- Cover up! Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
Getting ready at home
Before a pandemic is a reality, there are a few things you can do to prepare.
- Jot down the phone numbers of government health information lines. Bookmark government information websites on your computer.
- Prepare and store an emergency supply kit in your home with items like food and water, medical supplies, flashlights and batteries, and cash.
- Be prepared for possible closures of schools, daycare centres, and public transportation. You may need to have backup arrangements in place for childcare or travel.
- If a pandemic is declared, avoid crowds of strangers. This may mean keeping away from malls, public transportation, or spectator events. Viruses can spread easily when numbers of people are in close contact.
- Listen to advisories and instructions from public health officials. Use the radio, TV, or internet to stay in touch.
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