Understanding the H5N1 Avian Flu Virus
Preparing for Any Wide-Spread Emergency
H5N1 VIRUS: As of this writing, the avian flu virus primarily
affects wild birds and domestic poultry, and only people who
have worked intensively and directly with domestic poultry have
fallen ill. It is hoped that this situation will remain the
same. However, if the virus suddenly "jumps" from
bird-to-bird transmission to people-to-people transmission,
a pandemic might become a possibility.
PREPARE NOW? Although the information here is specific for the H5NA virus,
also called avian flu, preparation for an avian flu pandemic
is exactly the same as it would be for any large scale medical
event, natural disaster, or bioterrorism threat. Anything that
takes place on a large scale and lasts a long time could be
enough to disrupt normal routines for many weeks. The larger
the geographic impact, the longer you may need to be able to
manage on your own. Therefore, this information is not only
useful for the specific information it contains about avian
flu, but for the general, commonsense precautions, reference
lists, and preparation plans that anyone should have on hand
when faced with a large-scale emergency.
IS A FLU PANDEMIC? Influenza is a respiratory virus. People
who are ill breathe out microscopic secretions that contain
the virus. If those secretions are inhaled by others the virus
is passed along. A pandemic occurs when a new virus becomes
extremely infectious, and when immunity to that virus has not
built up over time. Because immunity is lacking, these new viruses
can be very dangerous, even for young healthy populations.
previous pandemics, the virus may come and go in waves, each
of which can last for months at a time. If this happens, everyday
life could be disrupted due to people in communities across
the country all becoming ill at the same time.
are inevitable, and there have been many different pandemics
down through the centuries. Today, with large mobile populations
and global air travel, it is easier than ever for an illness
to spread quickly all over the world.
THE EVENT OF A FLU PANDEMIC:
Well before health authorities declare that a pandemic is in
progress it is important to know how to plan and what to do.
Above all, it is critical to understand how to keep yourself
healthy. These basic instructions are applicable for any large-scale
Have a good supply of food and other necessities at home (see
Limit the spread of germs and prevent infection by washing hands
frequently with soap and water. Cover coughs and sneezes with
If you are sick, stay away from others. If others are sick,
stay away from them;
If you must go out in public when illness rates are high protect
yourself by wearing an N95 mask with an "exhale" valve;
Learn to keep your hands away from your eyes, your nose, and
your mouth. Even at home, these are the prime "doors"
through which germs can enter. Use hand sanitizers and/or gloves
when you are out in public.
HOW DOES AVIAN FLU "FEEL?" All influenza manifests
itself pretty much the same way: Fever, general aches and pains,
cough, loss of appetite, perhaps abdominal pain. Avian flu is
more severe, has serious complications, and the body has less
resistance to it.
IT SAFE TO EAT POULTRY? Cooked to proper temperature, it is safe to eat pre-packaged
ARE THERE DRUGS I CAN TAKE? Research is in progress,
but no drugs or vaccines currently exist to cure or prevent
avian flu, and it is unlikely that antivirals alone could contain
the spread of a pandemic influenza. Some antiviral drugs are
approved to treat the symptoms of seasonal flu, and may help
with symptoms of avian flu.
VALLEY: In the event of any catastrophic event it may be necessary for
people to shelter and work from home, abide by imposed quarantines
or other special ordinances, and wait for communication about
resource and action plans from state and federal authorities.
Because help may not be immediately available, being prepared
ahead of time is the key. Your Health Department, along with
emergency service providers, is dedicated to providing accurate
up-to-date information so that residents can be prepared for
In any kind of national or regional emergency there will be
many challenges. Understanding these challenges and preparing
for them ahead of time will help you survive and cope:
Plan for the possibility that usual services may be disrupted.
These could be services provided by hospitals, doctors offices,
banks, stores, restaurants, government buildings, and post offices.
Consider how to care for those family, friends, and neighbors
who are homebound or who have special needs, in case the services
they rely on are unavailable.
Do not count on federal, state, or local community services
to help you right away. Be educated and prepared to survive
on your own for a period of time.
Compile an easy-to-locate file containing your family's important
medical information, a list of prescription medications, and
emergency contact information.
Prepare backup plans in case public gatherings such as volunteer
meetings and worship services are canceled.
LIST(ENOUGH FOR 2-3 WEEKS):
and Nonperishable Items:
ready-to-eat canned meats and fish
canned fruits, vegetables, and soups
protein or fruit bars
dry cereal and/or granola
peanut butter and/or nuts
dried fruit, rice, beans
crackers, cookies, protein biscuits
canned juices, bottled water
jarred baby foods & baby formula
pet food, pet supplies, pet meds
and Practical Items:
month's supply of prescription drugs
glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment
soap and/or alcohol-based hand wash
ibuprofen or acetaminophen
OTC anti-diarrheal medications
fluids with electrolytes
antibacterial cleansing agent/soap, wipes
portable radio, cell phone
manual can opener
plastic garbage bags
tissues, paper towels, toilet paper
disposable diapers if needed
N95 face masks with exhale valves
cash and/or travelers checks
keep car gas tanks full
Township Health Department 737-0120
of Emergency Management 609-882-2000
of Health & Senior Services 292-7837
Radio 88.1 FM
Control Center 800-222-1222
For further information and your copy of "Ready Together
New Jersey: A Public Guide to Emergency Planning", stop
by the Hopewell Township Health Department during normal business
hours. We are located on the lower level of the Township Municipal
Building at 201 Washington Crossing Pennington Road in Titusville.
information will be updated and revised as needed