Washington, D.C. – National health officials are raising red flags about the number of human deaths in Asia caused by the avian flu, especially in terms of the speed in which human-to-human transmission is taking place.
In addition, officials in both Alabama and Tennessee found bird flu cases at three chicken farms in each state, and euthanized the infected chickens to try to keep the virus from spreading.
The Washington Post reported that not only are officials around the world alarmed by the speed at which humans are becoming infected and dying from the dangerous H7N9 virus, but changes in the disease could pose a worldwide threat.
A surge in human infections of a deadly bird flu in China is prompting increasing concern among health officials around the world. While the human risk of these outbreaks is low at the moment, experts are calling for constant monitoring because of the large increase in cases this season, and because there are worrisome changes in the virus. U.S. officials say of all emerging influenza viruses, this particular virus poses the greatest risk of a pandemic threat if it evolves to spread readily from human to human, according to a report released Friday.
In China, where the most damage is being done by the virus, this is the largest outbreak of this particular strain with at least 460 infections reported. In addition, the virus is moving fast.
About a third of people diagnosed with H7N9 have died of their infections, according to the World Health Organization. Human infections with this type of bird flu were first reported in China in March 2013, and since then, there have been yearly epidemics of human infections.
But this winter, the number of cases is greater than any of the previous four seasons. This year’s infections account for more than a third of the 1,258 H7N9 cases that have been reported since 2013. Most human infections involve exposure to live poultry or contaminated environments, especially markets where live birds have been sold. During the previous four waves of H7N9, 88 percent of patients developed pneumonia, 68 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit and 41 percent died, according to a report from the CDC.
“This is the virus we were concerned about in 2013, and now we’re seeing these increasing number of cases,” said Daniel Jernigan, who heads the CDC’s influenza division, in an interview this week. “This year it came back much stronger, so the numbers of cases we’re seeing has already surpassed all the other waves, and the season isn’t even over yet.”
A flu pandemic is scary enough that the outgoing director for the Centers for Disease Control says that a flu pandemic is his greatest fear.
“The biggest concern is always for an influenza pandemic. Even in a moderate flu year, [influenza] kills tens of thousands of Americans and sends hundreds of thousands to the hospital,” said Tom Frieden, the outgoing CDC director. “That increase in mortality last year may have been driven in significant part by a worse flu season compared to a mild flu season the prior year. So flu, even in an average year, really causes a huge problem. And a pandemic really is the worst-case scenario. If you have something that spreads to a third of the population and can kill a significant proportion of those it affects, you have the makings of a major disaster.”
Avian Flu Cases Found in the U.S.
In Alabama, officials banned the sale and moving of poultry from non-commercial farms because of fears that the bird flu cases in the north Alabama counties of Jackson, Lauderdale and Madison could spread.
A statement from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries says commercial farmers and breeders are not impacted by the ban since those birds are tested regularly. However, commercial poultry farmers in those counties have had to euthanize chickens because the flu was found among the bird population there.
State agricultural officials said the latest chicken breeding facility to be infected is in Lincoln County, close to a farm that was diagnosed with bird flu less than two weeks earlier. Officials say the chickens at both facilities have the same strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Lincoln County lies south of Nashville. Another chicken breeding facility that was diagnosed with infected birds is in neighboring Giles County.
State officials said the chickens at all three facilities have been killed off.
Officials say the strains of bird flu that have sickened the Alabama and Tennessee chickens do not pose a threat to the food supply.
However, because the World Health Organization has been warning about the fact that the world is highly vulnerable to a deadly flu pandemic, people should not take these new developments lightly.
Preparing For Pandemic
Stay Away: It’s not always about survival gear and stocking up. Shawn Tipping, a principal at Game Plan Experts, says one of the best actions anyone can take is to understand and practice the art of “social distancing” when the threat of a flu pandemic emerges.
“There are several reasons that you might find the need to separate yourself from the rest of the population,” he said in a blog earlier this year. “Pandemic is one that worries me the most. Specifically, a flu pandemic worries me because the flu seems pretty common, and certain strains can be deadly.”
Crowded cities and towns, and the fact that anyone can travel across the world from a pandemic-suffering area without knowing they are contagious are two of the top reasons why social distancing is the very first skill and prep that people need to accomplish.
In his blog titled “Social Distancing – Your Best Protection,” Tipping gives several key examples as to why a flu pandemic is so dangerous and why steps to prepare need to be taken seriously.
When the next Pandemic emerges:
- It will spread worldwide rapidly.
- Most of the human race could be subject to infection.
- The pandemic will last for months or years – not everyone gets infected at once.
- Government and medical services may shut down for lack of resources.
- Other resources will be stretched well beyond capacity in most communities, or may shut down (think soup kitchens, etc.)
- Health care workers may stop going to work to care for their family members.
- Vaccines may not be available to some or any of the population.
- Death rates could be high – New flu strains are highly infectious because humans have little or no immunity.
- You may have to fend for yourself and your family.
History is the best teacher. Take the 20th century, for example. The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 was said to have killed close to 50 million worldwide. That number included over 625,000 in the United States. The first cases in the US were at an Army base in my home state of Kansas on March 11th, 1918. It started as a trickle. By the end of the first week almost 500 soldiers had fallen sick. During the year, the flu killed close to 60,000 American soldiers.
At first it was known as the “3-day fever” and the symptoms looked like any other case of the flu. Coughing, chills, vomiting, and high fever were its calling card. But then brown spots started to appear on cheeks, and then bloody fluid would take over the lungs. Death from suffocation would soon follow.
What the Average Family Should Have on Hand
The Apartment Prepper is always a voice of reason, and his advice about what to have in your home is logical and practical.
The basics for preparing for a pandemic is similar to preparing for a regional disaster, such as hurricane or ice storm, except for a few added precautions:
- Have at least two weeks worth of stored food that does not need refrigeration. Don’t forget to store enough for kids, pets and other special diets. Increase your supplies if you have the means or the space.
- Store enough water for your family for at least two weeks. The recommended amount is at least one gallon per person per day.
- Have a power outage kit, which means backup lighting, cooking and communications, in case of power disruptions.
- Your car survival kit should also be fully stocked.
- Have some emergency cash.
- Keep a fully stocked first aid kit, complete with backup prescriptions
- Make sure you also have toilet and sanitation provisions
- Be aware – pay attention to the news, both mainstream and alternate sources.
Stock up on additional supplies including:
- N-95 face masks
- hand soap and antibacterial wipes
- bleach – a good standby when in comes to disinfect surfaces. According to the Clorox website, use 2 tbsp bleach to one gallon of water, to sanitize a surface. Bleach loses its potency so always mix a fresh batch for cleaning.
- garbage bags for disposal of waste
His article also discusses the importance of bolstering your family’s immune system, creating a family plan, as well as some additional tips for social distancing and personal hygiene. To read his entire article, click on the link to learn “How the Average Person can Prepare for a Pandemic.”
Nothing is Off The Table, Even Essential Oils
When it comes to protecting your family, you need to consider every tool available. So, when Melissa Mink, the Homestead Moma, offers up essential oil advice for surviving a pandemic, it is worth serious consideration.
“Although there is no replacement for a well-trained medical professional, I realize sometimes life puts us all into situations where what we need isn’t always accessible,” said Mink.
Here are just a few items on her list.
- Clove – This is not only highly antiviral, anti fungal, antiseptic, antibacterial, and pretty much “anti-everything”; it is a total favorite of the dental and medical community, including pharmaceutical companies. It has been the starting component of all the ‘caines’ such a benzocaine, Novocain, lidocaine and others in the same family…In a worst-case scenario where there could be an outbreak of flu, Ebola, Avian Flu, or something else on that scale…this is the one essential oil I would reach for.
- Bergamot – An Italian citrus, this oil has been studied and shown effective at lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and highly effective on anxiety. (Editor’ Note: reducing anxiety is recognized as an important element to any survival situation.)
- Peppermint – This oil is tops at reducing fever and calming an upset stomach.
- Litsea Cubeba – This is an oil most people have NEVER heard of. Also, called May Chang in China, it is worth its weight in gold as far as I am concerned.…One example is when my new chicks came to me with a bout of what certainly appeared to be bird flu. My baby chicks were dying and I had to stop it. Instantly. And I did with this oil! Avian flu is viral and so I quickly reached for this oil. I placed a few drops into a quart of water with Vitamin B, and gave them only this to drink. All my droopy looking chickens perked right up…and they stopped dying.
To see the rest of the items on her list, and a full explanation of the those listed below, check out her “Essential Oil Survival Kit – The Best Oils for a Worst case Scenario”.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong (top),