Preparation for Pandemic Flu
Thanks for the good question about what to stock up on at home and for how long if the pandemic gets out of the box. The answer is far from simple!
To figure it out, you need to imagine what the impact of a pandemic would be on the community as well as what the impact would be in your household if someone brought pandemic flu home to share.
Once you look at both pieces you can begin to tailor your personal planning depending on whether you're a worry wart, a fatalist, a pragmatist, or simply invincible, like Nathan.
In 1918, once the pandemic swept into town it caused significant illness for the next six to eight weeks. Significant means that at about a third of the people in the community were sick in bed, some desperately ill. It took a person a month or more to fully recover from that flu, and that was only if the person was lucky enough to avoid secondary pneumonia or other common complications during convalescence.
Assuming a similar attack rate for our unknown new pandemic threat, what could we expect? Picture the scenario if a third or more of the work force were absent for a period of several weeks:
--Public services would limp along. Delayed repairs of power or water problems, slower police and fire response.
--Schools and daycare would likely be closed during the peak of the invasion.
--Public transportation of all types would be limited or banned.
--Commercial goods and services you take for granted would likely be scarce or missing.
--Medical services, including emergency response, hospital beds, and pharmacy services would be badly overwhelmed and understaffed.
--Social services for the frail elderly and other individuals would be harder to access.
--I'm sure there are a bunch more that I've missed, but you get the picture.
How long might that all continue? Variable: Given the interlinked economy, goods might be scarce a lot longer than the people in your own community are sick.
How much stocking up you decide on is so much a function of where you live and your family's particular needs that it's impossible to say definitively. Use your best guess given the scenario above.
I've read one recommendation that you should plan for at least a week without a trip to the market. That seems a bit optimistic to me! There is a general overview of the things you should consider stocking up on at
My own personal plan is:
1. Make a list now of the non-perishables I think our household would need for at least two weeks, three weeks for really critical items like diapers and routine prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
2. Begin now to buy extra of just those critical things to avoid a last minute panic.
3. When the pandemic is official anywhere in the world, stock up on the rest.
But that's still only half the answer. What is really critical is to know what to have on hand if, God forbid, you had to take care of a pandemic flu victim at home. Given the attack rate, this is a distinct possibility that we must be ready for. More on that later.