pandemic en-US Surviving Swine Flu <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/surviving-swine-flu" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Getting a shot" title="What a prick!" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="380" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You're probably going to get swine flu, and there's really&nbsp;no need to freak out.&nbsp;Most people are surviving it just fine. Sure, fear-mongering news reporters love nothing better than a global pandemic to boost their ratings with sensationalist coverage of school shut-downs and hospitalizations, but while swine flu is no picnic, it doesn't look like it's going to wipe out civilization as we know it.</p> <p>Let's go ahead and take a fatalistic approach to this virus. We're going to get it, and we're probably going to survive it; but those who are in high-risk catgories need to take special precautions. Wash your hands all you want; it's a virus, and it will travel.</p> <p>We need a level-headed approach to combating this illness, and with a vaccine still not available to the public, it's important to take stock of your health and protect yourself and your loved ones before the flu season really takes off.</p> <h2>Know if you are at risk</h2> <p>You expect the flu to pick off the old and infirm, but this flu is different. You might not be happy to hear that most of the 77 swine-flu related deaths recently studied by the CDC had underlying <a href="">conditions like asthma or diabetes</a> that complicated their illness (10% of the U.S. population has <a href="">diabetes</a>; 16.4% has <a href="">asthma</a>). If you are asthmatic, your condition can be aggravated by respiratory complications associated with the flu, so have your fast-acting bronchial dilator on hand and talk to your doctor about other precautions you might want to take. Diabetics are slower to heal and more prone to infections, so discuss a proactive approach with your doctor before you get sick.</p> <h2>Consider a pneumonia vaccination</h2> <p>The swine flu vaccine itself is days or possibly weeks away, and the biggest risk of the flu isn't really the flu virus itself, but rather the bacterial infections that strike once your immune system has been weakened by the flu. Data from the CDC suggests what most doctors probably could have guessed: up to 29% of people who have died while infected with the swine flu have also had <a href="">accompanying infections like pneumonia</a>. I didn't even know that you could get a vaccine for pneumonia until recently, but apparently this <a href="">underused&nbsp;treatment is fairly effective</a>. The vaccine only needs to be given twice in a lifetime, and although&nbsp;it only covers a couple dozen strains of pneumonia (there are more than <a href="">80 different types</a>), most infections are caused by the 23 strains of bacteria&nbsp;that are included in the vaccine. Pregnant/nursing women and children under the age of two <a href="">are not generally vaccinated.</a></p> <p>I've been calling around, and the price of a pneumonia vaccine seems to range between $30-55. That's not exactly cheap, but for an asthmatic like me, it's cheaper than a trip to the emergency room (again). Check your local pharmacy or clinic to see if they are offering pneumonia vaccines; many pharmacies are scheduling vaccination clinics that include the <a href="">flu shot</a> and pneumonia vaccinations at the same time. The vaccine isn't always covered by insurance.</p> <h2>Exercise and eat well</h2> <p>This is obviously something everyone should be doing already, but if today is the first day that you put down the bag of Doritos and take a slow walk around the block, so be it. You don't have to deprive yourself and go crazy with a weight-loss scheme; just add some fresh fruit and veggies (the&nbsp;darker, the better &mdash; think berries and kale) to your daily food intake and find ways to keep your blood pumping, even if it means long, leisurely walks around the block. Take deep breaths and try to slowly expand your lung capacity. Don't exhaust yourself, because that can just make you more prone to illness.</p> <h2>Get enough Vitamin D</h2> <p>Many people live with <a href="">vitamin D deficiency</a>, and it can be difficult to tell that you have one without a blood test. Vitamin D <a href="">may play an essential role </a>in keeping your immune system, particularly your respiratory system, healthy. There are few ways to get enough vitamin D, but you can take supplements, drink vitamin D-fortified milk (3 glasses a day), or make a point of spending at least 15 minutes a day outside during the sun's peak hours (11AM-1PM).</p> <h2>Get plenty of sleep</h2> <p>The flu hits those who are most vulnerable, and that includes not just the old and sick, but also the physically exhausted. Most people don't get nearly enough sleep on a daily basis, so if it means that you have to skip your favorite TV shows for a few weeks to get some more shut-eye, so be it. Remember, unless you are one of those rare genetic mutants who only needs 6 hours of sleep per night, you should be striving for somewhere around <a href="">8.5 hours of quality sleep</a>.</p> <h2>If you get sick...</h2> <p>If you've managed to catch the swine flu, you can still take steps to avoid the worst aspects of the disease. The usual advice still applies: get plenty of rest, stay home if you can, remain hydrated, and allow people to tell you how good chicken soup is for you. For most people, this should be enough.</p> <p>For those with immuno-suppressive disorders or anyone considered &quot;high-risk,&quot; you might want to take an anti-viral medication within the first 24 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. Pneumonias develop when mucus and fluids in the lungs become infected with bacteria, which happens when the mucus is allowed to hang out and fester. To prevent pooling of mucus:</p> <ol> <li>Assuming you don't have any other conditions that would prevent this (like fresh stitches from an appendectomy), cough. Force yourself to cough; this moves the phlegm around in your chest and disrupts bacterial growth.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>When not sleeping, try to rest in an upright position.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Try to move around when you are sleeping. Don't just stay flat on your back for many hours at a time.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>If you develop a cough that isn't bringing up much phlegm, and you have your doctor's go-ahead, get your hands on a good <a href="">expectorant</a>&nbsp;that contains Guaifenesin, like Mucinex. Expectorants help to thin the mucus out, so that you can bring it up when you cough. Breaking up this nastiness and coughing it out is crucial to preventing infection.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>If you are asthmatic, be vigilant and keep in touch with your doctor as necessary. At the first instance of respiratory distress, get thee to a medical facility.</li> </ol> <p>**I am not a doctor, and nothing in this article should be construed as me giving medical advice. However, most of the tips given here do come from the Center for Disease Control or other reputable sources, so I promise that I am not just making stuff up. Please consult your physician before undertaking any new medical treatments.**</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Surviving Swine Flu" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Andrea Karim</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty cold cough epidemic flu shot h1n1 infection medicine pandemic pneumonia swine flu tamiflu Wed, 30 Sep 2009 17:37:19 +0000 Andrea Karim 3655 at 15 Things You Should Do Today to Prepare for a Pandemic Flu <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/15-things-you-should-do-today-to-prepare-for-a-pandemic-flu" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Emergency" title="Emergency" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="200" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>For the past few years people have been telling us that it's not a matter of &quot;if&quot; a pandemic occurs, but a matter of &quot;when.&quot;</p> <p>Well, a pandemic may be upon us in the form of swine flu. Or it may not. Either way, it's a good time to review your emergency preparedness.</p> <p>There's no reason for alarm, but having previously worked on pandemic planning, I know that you'll save time and money by preparing now, instead of waiting until there is an emergency.</p> <p>Here are 15 things you should do right now to prepare yourself.</p> <h2>1. Get Extra Cash</h2> <p>I know I should have some emergency cash somewhere in my house. I used to have $200 hidden in a jar, but somehow I kept needing it for an &quot;I don't have time to stop at the ATM&quot; emergency.</p> <p>If you don't have at least a little extra cash available, swing by the ATM today.</p> <h2>2. Hoard Soap</h2> <p>The best way to protect against the flu is to <strong>wash your hands</strong>. You can't do this without soap. Alcohol-based hand wash (like Purell) also works -- just make sure it's at least 60% alcohol.</p> <h2>3. Buy Water</h2> <p>I hate bottled water. It's terrible for the environment. But let's face it: without water we can't survive. Buy a few gallons of water to store in case of an emergency.</p> <h2>4. Purchase Dried Grains</h2> <p>If your shelves are looking scarce, go buy a few packages of pasta or rice.</p> <h2>5. Procure Non-Perishable Proteins</h2> <p>Dried beans are amazing. They keep forever, are tasty, and are immensely cheaper than canned beans. Peanut butter is another favorite protein. Unless you want to be sitting in your house eating plain rice during an emergency, now is the time to buy a few other staples.</p> <h2>6. Stock up on Canned Fruits and Veggies</h2> <p>Would storing a few cans a peaches and green beans in your cabinet be so difficult? Canned fruits and veggies may not taste the best.&nbsp; But, they're cheap and they keep.</p> <h2>7. Check Your First Aid Kit</h2> <p>Do you have the basics in your first aid kit? A thermometer and acetaminophen or ibuprofen are probably the two most essential items for the flu. Here's <a href="">the Red Cross' First Aid Kit Checklist</a>.&nbsp; Or you can <a href=";;tag=adailyscoop-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957">buy a pre-assembled first aid kit</a>&nbsp; for about $15.</p> <h2>8. Find Your Flashlight</h2> <p>Chances are you have a flashlight, but it's tucked away in the darkest cupboard in your basement. Find it and check the batteries.</p> <h2>9. Test Your Portable Radio</h2> <p>Neither your iPod nor Pandora will help you if you don't have electricity and you need to get the latest news. You will need a portable radio with working batteries.</p> <h2>10. Make an Emergency Contact List (on Paper)</h2> <p>Again, if there is no electricity your cell phone battery will only last so long. Now is the time to get your emergency contact numbers off of your phone and write them on paper.</p> <h2>11. Stash Away Extra Prescriptions</h2> <p>If you, your pet, or anyone in your family is on a prescription medication, make sure you have 1-3 months extra supplies.</p> <h2>12. Consider Buying N-95 Masks</h2> <p>About 3 years ago my dad bought me a few <a href=";;tag=adailyscoop-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957">packages of N-95 masks.</a> His good friend who is a doctor told him that if there was ever a pandemic these things would be gone from the shelves in a heartbeat. At the time I sort of laughed at my dad. But guess what -- I still have those masks.</p> <p>This may being going a little too far, but buying a few N-95 masks is worth thinking about. They are relatively cheap considering the mental comfort they may give you.<br /> Also note -- studies have shown they much more effective when placed on a sick person than on yourself.</p> <h2>13. Know Your Work/School's Emergency and/or Pandemic Plan</h2> <p>What is your work or school's plan in case of an emergency or pandemic? Will you be expected to work remotely? Will classes be canceled?&nbsp;Most large companies and schools have their emergency plans online -- take a look.</p> <h2>14. Understand Basic Prevention</h2> <p>To keep from getting sick practice prevention methods <a href="">endorsed by the CDC</a>:</p> <ol> <li>Stay away from others who are sick.</li> <li>Stay home if you're sick.</li> <li>Cover your mouth when you cough.</li> <li>Wash your hands.</li> <li>Don't touch your face, nose, eyes.</li> <li>Be healthy; that is get enough sleep, drink water, eat well, and exercise.</li> </ol> <h2>15. Do Further Research</h2> <p>Take 20 minutes today to glance through some emergency preparedness websites. Even if you don't stockpile 3 weeks worth of food like they say, it's still a good idea to know what the recommendations are. <a href=""></a> is a pretty solid site. And as a Minnesota resident I'm proud to say that MN's site <a href="">CodeReady</a> is another top site that's applicable for people living throughout the U.S.</p> <p>Honestly, I've never been one for preparedness hype. And so far there has been no reason to panic. But the current pandemic possibility is a good reason to review your needs and your preparedness level. By doing so, you'll save yourself time, money, and anxiety in the long run.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="15 Things You Should Do Today to Prepare for a Pandemic Flu" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Elizabeth Lang</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty pandemic preparedness swine flu Thu, 30 Apr 2009 19:54:11 +0000 Elizabeth Lang 3106 at Economic effects of pandemic flu in a recession <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/economic-effects-of-pandemic-flu-in-a-recession" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Flu masks in Mexico" title="Epidemia de Pánico / Panic Epidemy" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="183" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>While health authorities worry about the human cost of pandemics, other policy-makers have tended to focus on the economic costs. Economic impact takes many forms--drops in production as workers stay home, drops in commerce as shoppers avoid crowded places, drops in tourism as travelers avoid affected areas. Does the current economic crisis make us more vulnerable than usual, if the swine flu outbreak in Mexico and a few US cities goes pandemic?</p> <p>Two recent illnesses that seemed to pose a threat of pandemic disease--bird flu and SARS--give us some insight into the kind of economic impacts we need to consider.</p> <h2>SARS and Bird flu</h2> <p>In the case of SARS, there was a <a href="">substantial economic impact</a>, with the affected Asian countries losing $25 to $30 billion mostly in the tourism, service, aviation, and restaurant sectors--and another $2 billion lost in Toronto alone. In addition to the lost dollars, there were also serious job losses--up to 3 million jobs just in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam.</p> <p>In the case of bird flu (aka avian influenza), the <a href=",,contentMDK:20713527~pagePK:34004173~piPK:34003707~theSitePK:503048,00.html">economic impacts</a> were rather different. Much of the impact--an estimated $10 billion--resulted from culling poultry to stem the spread of the disease (and the related costs to the government for equipment, personnel, and so on).</p> <h2>Current swine flu threat</h2> <p>Those were both instances where the threatened expansion to pandemic disease did not occur. Just the threat, though, caused widespread ripple effects--not only do people avoid tourism to the affected areas, people already in the affected areas take more drastic measures to limit the spread of the disease. For example, in Mexico, <a href="">government officials have closed schools</a> and advised people to avoid crowds.</p> <p>People tend to pay some attention to government announcements of that sort, but they also do their own thinking--and may take more drastic measures, such as staying home from work and avoiding stores. That can have serious economic effects.</p> <p>A recession, though, may actually mitigate some of those effects.</p> <p>People are already avoiding unnecessary shopping, so economic activity probably won't fall nearly as much from their already-low levels as they would have otherwise. Similarly, people who are unemployed are already not going to work, so it makes no difference if they continue staying home.</p> <p>On the other hand, many people who still have jobs are probably more afraid than usual that they might lose them. That, combined with other pressures from the recession, might prompt people to go to work even when they fear exposure to contagious disease. (In fact, we already <a href="">see this happening</a>.) This may reduce the economic impact, but potentially at the cost of greater illness and death.</p> <h2>Fear and reality</h2> <p>Just fear of a pandemic can produce substantial costs to the economy, if people stay home rather than work and shop. If a really deadly disease becomes widespread, however, things can get much worse. People who are in the hospital can't come to work no matter how great the risk that staying home might cost them their job. And, of course, people who are dead never return to work at all.</p> <p>The 1918 flu pandemic is estimated to have killed at least 2.5% of the world population. With the current world population, similar results would mean some 170 million deaths worldwide.</p> <p>That sort of population decrease has far-reaching economic effects. With fewer people, there's less demand. Less demand results in lower prices--potentially for everything (food, housing, consumer goods, factory equipment). The result might well be yet another downward leg in the recessionary spiral.</p> <p>On the other hand, it's a different sort of drop in demand. The normal recessionary spiral results in dropping standards of living, because people (whether by choice or due to economic circumstances) buy less. A drop in demand produced by a smaller population, though, doesn't necessarily have the same result--individual household consumption can actually rise (because the things they want to buy are cheaper) even though total consumption is down (because there are fewer people). In the aftermath of the Black Death, <a href="">standards of living actually rose</a> (for the survivors), due to higher wages for now-scarce workers.</p> <h2>In a financial crisis</h2> <p>There is, though, a related but different set of dangers. The financial crisis has put the economy into an unusually stressed state, exposed to many risks that too few policy makers and financial executives expected. The danger of pandemic disease is yet another layer of risks and costs on top of a financial industry that is already undercapitalized and holding large amounts of debt that is never going to be paid back. The costs--workers staying home, executives unable to travel--are probably modest. The risks, though are huge:</p> <ul> <li>Businesses in industries affected by pandemic (or fear of pandemic) will fail, leaving their debts unpaid</li> <li>Debtors will die, leaving their debts unpaid as well</li> <li>Families will lose breadwinners, adding to the burden on aid agencies and others</li> <li>Governments will be too distracted by the new crisis to deal effectively with the old one</li> </ul> <p>On balance, I'd say that the recession generally reduces the financial impacts of pandemic disease. The financial crisis, however, makes the economy particularly vulnerable to any shock. I don't see much that ordinary people can do to mitigate those risks. The risks ordinary people should keep their eye on are the risks to their health.</p> <p><em>[Update 26 April 2009:&nbsp; I found a good 2005 article from the CDC <a href="">The Economic Impact of Pandemic Influenza in the United States: Priorities for Intervention</a>.&nbsp; It looks in considerable detail at the costs of mass imunization programs, hospitalizations, and so on.] </em></p> <p><em>[Update 28 April 2009:&nbsp; The US government has a <a href="">pandemic flu site</a> that includes a page on <a href="">economic impacts</a>.]</em></p> <p><em>[Update 8 August 2009: </em></p> <p>Another US government site <a href=""></a> has lots of policy suggetions aimed a minimizing economic impacts.&nbsp; (For example, they advise against closing schools in favor of having sick people stay home.)&nbsp;</p> <p>The <em>Economist</em> had two recent stories on the economic impact of the flu:&nbsp;<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"> </span></span><a href="">Cold comfort</a> (The economic impact of swine flu may not be that bad) and <a href="">The cost of swine flu</a> (Swine flu hits public health and the economy in South America.]</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Economic effects of pandemic flu in a recession" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Health and Beauty bird flu black death economic Economy flu h1n1 h5n1 Health influenza pandemic plague recession sars swine flu Sun, 26 Apr 2009 01:07:45 +0000 Philip Brewer 3086 at