The Flu and You: Perspective and Preparedness

Posted on Mon 02/03/2020 by

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Your primary defense against such contagions is the capacity to shelter in place. ~

Thursday, the UN’s World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concer in connection with the spread of the latest coronavirus mutations and concern about human-to-human transmission. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted, “The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, generally far ahead of the rest of the world regarding potential pandemic threats, is always watching this and other bugs for early warning signs of spread in the U.S. Taking additional measures, the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has empaneled a task force to ramp up preparedness and response to the spread of this contagion. Azar declared, “Americans should note this is a potentially very serious public health threat.”

Officially, the communist Chinese government claims about 220 deaths and 10,000 infections. Our sources indicate that the actual rates of infection and deaths in China are much higher, and, in fact, official reports may only represent 5-7% of the actual dead and infected. The so-called “popup hospitals” now being constructed in Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak originated double as isolation morgues.

In the U.S., the CDC is now reporting human-transmitted cases and has confirmed five cases in Arizona, Washington state, Illinois, and California, while officials are investigating four more — two in Washington, DC, and one each in Maryland and Virginia. The CDC is waiting on test results for more than 100 other patients suspected of coronavirus infection. Accordingly, the U.S. has issued a strong travel advisoryfor China, but we believe the CDC should increase the isolation period for those who are suspected of being infected to 14 days.

What do you need to know — and do?

First some perspective. Global deaths from the Ebola epidemic originating in 2014 are estimated now at more than 13,200. But deaths from the the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak, while officially put at 18,449, are now estimated by one CDC study to be as high as 284,000. The vast majority of these deaths occurred in third-world nations where containment and treatment are rudimentary. Most deaths were at both ends of the age spectrum — the young and old.

While domestic concern about the coronavirus is warranted, it is worth noting that the current influenza B/Victoria viral strain in the U.S. is deadly. There have been more than8,000 deaths associated with influenza across the country in this flu season. “Influenza is going to cause thousands more hospitalizations and I’m afraid many, many deaths that will make the coronavirus impact on our country very tiny in comparison,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious-disease specialist. He added, “The risk from influenza is real and present.” (Did you get that flu shot this year?)

What can you do?

Be prepared. As I noted in “The REAL Pandemic Threat,” “Clearly, there are significant pandemic threats posed by viral infections that mutate into much more contagious forms and can spread regionally, nationally, and internationally, causing significant loss of life. I have advised for years that the primary defense against such contagions is the capacity to shelter in place. What originates in China or Africa one week can be in your suburb the next.”

For that reason, years ago we developed a resource page on Disaster Preparedness Planning, including a Two Step Individual Readiness Plan and a section on how to shelter in place.

We encourage you to visit each of these pages, because national preparedness begins with individual preparedness.

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