Bird Flu Self-Care Basics

In my last article, I wrote about the need to be prepared about Avian Flu (actually, Bird Flu is what birds get.  If it mutates into a form easily transmissible from human to human, it is know as Avian Influenza).  But what to do?

I’ll share with you how I’ve prepared, having taken this threat seriously particularly due to caring for an aging and disabled parent:

  1. Stock up on three months worth of food
  2. Stock up on three months worth of water
  3. Stock up on three months worth of energy supplies.
  4. Stock up on three months worth of prescriptions, vitamins, supplements.
  5. Prepare a home-treatment flu kit.
  6. Have an extra supply of cash on hand in the home.
  7. Coordinate a disaster plan with neighbors
  8. Discuss way in which you would handle others coming to your door, knowing that you have prepared and they haven’t.
  9. Arrange and set up a work-at-home capability.
  10.  Stock up on three months worth of work-at-home supplies.
  11. Stay informed of latest developments.
  12. Download U.S., Michigan, and your county disaster preparedness plans to learn how government is responding to this threat, and how you fit in.
  13. Attend any emergency preparedness workshops offered in your area.
  14. Make sure all your legal documents are in order.
  15. Communications systems, including a short-wave radio capability.

I have done all of these, save for working on a neighborhood plan.  I’ve found that most of my neighbors do not take this seriously, having already discussed the ramifications of any emergency.  I find this to be wishful thinking as I believe we now live in an age where awareness and self-preparation are our best defense against a multitude of potential emergencies: mass power outages, bio-terrorism, Avian Flu, and of course, all natural disasters…remember Katrina?.

OK, now to elaborate on the list.  Why three months?  I’ve asked a lot of informed people about this.  I’ve heard of time frames anywhere from one week to one year.  Three months seems to be the most reasonable time frame experts recommend.

Food supplies: Obviously stock up on non-perishables: canned food, dried fruit, powdered milk, cereal, oatmeal, etc.  Frozen foods is another option (but you’ll have to be energy-supplies, discussed below).

For water, many options occur: five-gallon jugs you can buy at the store, water-purifier systems (not the put-on-the-tap type!—do a key word search on the internet and you’ll find lots of hits), 50 gallon drums that can be purchased for water storage, and rain-collection systems combined with water purifiers.

Energy Supplies: Start with a stockpiles of batteries of all sizes.  Then consider 12 volt emergency battery packs (about $50) that you can buy at any hardware, Home Depot, Lowes, Meijers, Kmart, Sears, etc.).  I have three 12-volts.  I also have a crank-type flashlight, radio and cell-phone charger (you crank the power supply to generate power).  Finally, consider a back-up generator.  This is idea to re-charge the 12-volt power packs, and also keep basic appliances running (refrigerator, freezer, furnace).

Prescriptions, Vitamins & Supplements:  Many never think of this.  I sought the prescriptions from my mother’s doctor and explained why I wanted them.  I then privately paid for them and I knew my mother’s insurer would not cover this.  Purchase what you can if you cannot but a three-month supply at one time.  For instance, purchase one week of extra medicine at a time.  Your pharmacist will have the three-month script and know you are working towards that goal.

Imagine the lot of people in institutions  and those homebound if their families do not prepare for this need.  Potential medical chaos will ensue.

Home Flu Treatment Kit:  If the Avian Flu strikes (becomes pandemic), don’t count on hospitals.  They will be overcrowded.  Your best bet is to rely on treating the afflicted individual at home.  Accordingly, you should have the following:

  • Over-the-counter cold and flu treatments: cough suppressants (only to be used for dry coughs; phlegm-producing coughs should not be suppressed); Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen; Benadryl.
  • N-95 masks
  • Latex gloves
  • Electronic thermometer
  • Ingredients for oral re-hydration (table salt and sugar, baking soda)
  • Certain prescription drugs (Tamiflu, Probenecid, Promethazine, Hydrocodone, Diazepam, Azithromycin).  Rather than stockpile these drugs, I’ve found it best just to obtain the prescription and hold onto it.  Not only will this save you costs, but stockpiling drugs for too long will risk having to discard them for going beyond the expiration date.  Also, stockpiling creates unnecessary shortages.  I simply have the scripts updated once every six months and keep them on file

Home flu treatment kit recommendations are taken from Bird Flu Manual: Home Medical Care and Practical Family Preparation by Dr. Grattan Woodson, M.D.  (ISBN 1-4196-4152-2; order through BookSurge, LLC,, 1-866-308-6235, paperback).

Cash:  don’t expect banks are any business to be fully operational—absenteeism is predicted to be up to 50%.  Keep at least one month’s worth of extra cash in the home.

Neighborhood Plan: At least talk with neighbors about what you would do if disaster of any kind struck.  Most neighborhoods have no planning foresight.  The most formal arrangement can be developed through a template plan already created: CERT…Community Emergency Response Teams.  The following website lists CERT contacts in Michigan:

Preparing for Those Unprepared:  What will you do?  I know some people who have stockpiled ammunitions.  I plan to help, based on my mentor’s reply when I posed this scenario to her.  “Sue, I’d rather  leave the world with my arms open then closed,” [if it came to anyone doing her harm].  That pretty well sums it up for me, however you are encouraged to discuss this given your particular situation.  The above two responses reflect the extremes.

Work-At-Home Capability:  Of the five major reasons I decided to move my commercial-district office back home was due to the pandemic threat.  (Then I had to stockpile three months of business supplies).  Most people work for others.  In this case, I encourage you to ask your employer of its emergency preparedness planning.  I’d be surprised if your response was anything other than fire and tornado safety protocols.  If so, prompt your employer to consider other, far more reaching emergencies—emergencies that might put the entire national and world economies at risk, such as a pandemic.  For business self-preservation, an owner might be spurred to more seriously consider such planning.  Employees must be able to work at home in a pandemic.  They might be sick or caring for a sick loved-one.  Perhaps they are just scared to venture out of the home.  In any of these cases, work-at-home capability is the best plan for business economic survival.

Stay Informed of Developments:  If you do not have internet access, you can go to you local library and use their computer.  Many websites occur on emergency preparedness.  The one I use most often is Flu Wiki.

Government Plans:

  • Federal Plan: “National Strategy For Pandemic Influenza” by the Homeland Security Council published November of 2005.
  • Michigan Plan: “Pandemic Influenza Plan: Michigan Department of Community Health” published 2005.  (105 pages).
  • County plans:  most if not all county health departments have a plan.  Either call your local county health department or look up their website.
  • Emergency Preparedness Workshops:  Check with your local county health department on when these workshops occur.  Also check the events listings of your local newspapers and organization newsletters.

Legal Documents:  This might seem somber, yet any person 18 years and older should have their legal documents in place in the best of times:  Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, and the Medical Power of Attorney are the basics.  You can obtain all these forms free from your state legislator.

Communication Systems:  Finally, consider how you will communicate with your loved ones, and stay abreast of community, state, national and world events in the event of power outages during a pandemic or other similar emergency.  I have walkie talkies, push-to-talk cell phones, a crank weather/emergency information radio, and a short-wave radio.  I also have a hand-held, battery powered television, and internet-accessible computers.


I bet you thought I’d never get here!  The fact is, emergency preparedness makes incredible sense.  Consider Katrina.  If there had been city savvy to have three days of emergency supplies for the poorest of people, this would have gone a long-long way to alleviate the terrible conditions the world witnessed on the news.  Consider the power-grid outages in the eastern United States a few years back in August.  After three days of no power, people were acting nuts, as though the sky had fallen.  Think about that.  A pandemic last about 18 months (based on what happened in the 1918 Spanish Flu), with three waves lasting one to three months.

All post-WWII generations have not seen hardship.  The US Baby Boomers have lived a life of luxury no generation in the history of the world has known.  Should we continue to be asleep at the wheel, and face a pandemic or any similar emergency as unprepared and nonchalant as we are, the consequences are chilling.

Finally, consider the Katrina nursing home elders…they were left to die.


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