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Bracing for a flu pandemic

THE M.D.

It's not a matter of if, experts say, but when. No one knows which virus will trigger it, but preparation is essential.

June 04, 2007|Valerie Ulene | Our Health

Indeed, the actions taken by individuals during a pandemic may have the biggest effect on its outcome. The most important step people could take would be to try to avoid contact with those who are sick. Everyone must be prepared to stay at home if necessary; to that end, the CDC recommends storing a two-week supply of water and food.

People also need to educate themselves about appropriate preventive measures should an outbreak occur. Just last month, for instance, the CDC issued new recommendations for the general public regarding the use of face masks and respirators. During a pandemic, face masks should be considered for use in crowded settings; respirators should be considered when close contact with an infectious person cannot be avoided. Although the devices do not offer complete protection, they can help reduce exposure to airborne viruses and provide an additional margin of safety.

The experts have me convinced that it's time to take the flu virus seriously. I'll be spending the first part of my summer shoring up my household emergency supplies. I plan to expand my three-day rations into a two-week supply, and — although stockpiling face masks and respirators isn't currently being recommended — I'll probably throw some in just to be on the safe side.

While it's easy to put off these simple measures until tomorrow, it's foolish to wait. Just because flu isn't top news right now doesn't mean the threat has gone away.

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Dr. Valerie Ulene is a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine practicing in Los Angeles. She can be reached at themd@att.net. The MD appears the first Monday of the month.

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