Saturday, 20 June 2009

SWINE FLU AND COMMUNITY RESILIENCE

By Geraldine Tait

Swine flu is the latest hot topic in the media. Not many people have
had it yet but there is a good chance lots of people will eventually
get the flu. So what is the best response? Should you PANIC or just
ignore the media beat up?

We could think of this as a potential Civil Defense situation such as
an earthquake or a flood. Is your household and neighbourhood ready to
cope if you were quarantined to your house for a week or just too sick
to get out of bed. While we have time we should calmly make some
preparations. If you want to be proactive check your cupboards. Is
there enough extra food to last 4-6 days? If not, next time you are at
the supermarket pick up some emergency supplies which will store well
and are easy to prepare. If you've got the time, make some meals and
put them in the freezer.

Good personal hygiene habits are important to help stop the spread of
bugs. Remind children about washing hands after using the toilet and
before eating or serving food. Don't share cups and if anyone is sick
at home get them to use separate face cloths and towels. Other things
to think about are: medicine such as paracetamol, sore throat
lozenges, disinfectant and, of course, a few of boxes of those nice
soft paper tissues. Check your first aid kit. Have you got a
thermometer? High temperatures often go with flu. Think about personal
items you might need such as medications, nappies for the baby etc.

Have a stash of books or board games you can pull out to entertain the
kids. The library is a good place to find books magazines, CDs and
DVDs to help keep housebound people happy.

Talk to extended family, friends and neighbours about how you can
support each other and prearrange to run errands and drop off food or
medicine if needed. Also remember to check in with anyone who is
elderly or living alone. Have you got the phone numbers of your
immediate neighbours? This may be a good time to sort out your
emergency phone list.

A common sense approach to managing the flu.

How will you know if you've got it? Reports say it can start as a very
sore throat or ears, rapidly progressing to an aching body and a high
temperature. Cold symptoms such as a running nose, coughing and
sneezing may also include vomiting and diarrhea. The flu is always
much worse than a nasty cold and although swine flu has been described
as mild that does not mean you personally will not feel rotten. At
this stage, unless you are frail and have a chronic illness you are
most likely to recover.

So if you get sick and think it might be swine flu (this is much more
likely if you have had close contact with someone who has had the
flu), ring your GP clinic (don't go in, ring for instructions) or the
Health Help line 0800 611 116 for assistance with diagnosis and
management of symptoms. Don't be a hero and go to work or school when
you are sick. If it is likely to be swine flu it is important to
notify health authorities as they need to track cases and try to
prevent it spreading further. If you or someone else in your household
does get a swine flu diagnosis make sure you tell your workplace or
children's school. Ask your health professional about Tamiflu; this
drug works a bit like antibiotics do for bacterial infections. It will
not stop the flu virus but it may reduce the effects and speed up
recovery. It needs to be taken within 48 hours of the onset of the
infection; no good waiting until you are almost better.

As far as coping with flu: keep warm, go to bed, make sure you keep up
your fluids even if you don't feel like eating or drinking, keep an
eye on your temperature and if you get progressively worse, not
better, make sure you seek medical advice.

No doubt there will be more information coming from the government
health agencies as the flu spreads more widely. As a community we
should act now to be ready within our own families and also be willing
to help others around us. This is especially important in a semi rural
area with few shops and services.

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From blueskin.co.nz and 'Blueskin News' published by Blueskin Media:
voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
All material sent to or published by us is "copyleft" in the public
domain and may be freely shared, archived, re-edited and republished.
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