Avian Flu

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.

Why Prepare

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 bio-terrorism 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.


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.

Like 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.

Pandemics 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.

In 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 medical emergency:
  • Have a good supply of food and other necessities at home
  • Limit the spread of germs and prevent infection by washing hands frequently with soap and water. Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues
  • 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.

Is it Safe to Eat Poultry

Cooked to proper temperature, it is safe to eat pre-packaged poultry.

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.

Hopewell 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 any eventuality.

Planning & Preparing

  • 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.

Supply List

Enough for two to three weeks:
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, and soups
  • Canned juices, bottled water canned fruits, vegetables, and soups
  • Crackers, cookies, protein biscuits
  • Dried fruit, rice, beans
  • Crackers, cookies, protein biscuits
  • Dry cereal and / or granola
  • Dried fruit, rice, beans
  • crackers, cookies, protein biscuits
  • Food and Nonperishable Items:
  • Jarred baby foods and baby formula
  • Peanut butter and / or nuts
  • Pet food, pet supplies, pet medications
  • Protein or fruit bars
  • Ready-to-eat canned meats and fish

Medical & Practical Items

  • Antibacterial cleansing agent / soap, wipes
  • Disposable diapers if needed
  • Flashlight, batteries
  • disposable diapers if needed
  • Fluids with electrolytes
  • Glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Glucose and blood-pressure monitoring equipment
  • Manual can opener
  • Month's supply of prescription drugs
  • N95 face masks with exhale valves
  • Over the counter anti-diarrhea medications
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Portable radio, cell phone
  • Soap and / or alcohol-based hand wash
  • Thermometer
  • Tissues, paper towels, toilet paper
  • Vitamins

Other Items

  • Cash and / or travelers checks
  • Keep car gas tanks full