Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response: A Citizen's Guide
One way to preserve your mental health is to avoid over-identifying with victims. Do not take on the victim's feelings as your own.
Taking ownership of others' problems will compound your stress and affect the overall effectiveness of your role. Be conscious of these dangers and remain alert to signs of trauma in yourself and others.
Respect cultural differences, as they will arise when it comes to death and bereavement and also in caring for the ill.
Recognizing symptoms of distress14
- Anxiety, worry, guilt, or nervousness
- Increased anger and frustration
- Moodiness and/or depression
- Change in appetite
- Racing thoughts
- Problems concentrating/forgetfulness
- Disorganization or confusion
- A sense of being overwhelmed
- Suicidal thoughts
- Fear of getting close to people
- Tension headaches
- Gritting or grinding of teeth
- Jaw pain
- Stuttering or stammering
- Trembling of lips or hands
- Muscle tenseness, bracing, and aches
- Neck aches
- Back pain
- Aggressive body language
Volunteering during a pandemic
During a disaster, many local agencies respond and render aid to members of the community.
The Fire Department will take a lead role in the local response. You may already be a volunteer working with one of these agencies; for example, the fire or police Corps, CERT, or the Red Cross.
You may also know how to operate a Ham radio or have skills in managing a shelter.
You will need to decide for yourself whether you wish to offer your services to this or another agency, or whether you wish to remain at home and focus on your family and/or your neighborhood.
Any one of these actions is the right course, as long as it's right for you. There's no need to feel pressured to volunteer outside the home or neighborhood if you do not wish to do so.
When disasters occur, established volunteer agencies are often not prepared or able to handle the influx of volunteers that wish to help. While this may not be as much of an issue with a pandemic, it is still good to remember.
Checklist for Communications and Volunteerism
q Obtain a battery operated or hand-crank radio that has AM, FM, broadcast television, and short-wave frequency capability.
q Practice talking with family members about what it might be like to be in a pandemic where your normal day to day communications, such as the phone and television could be gone.
q Consider getting a basic amateur radio (Ham) license and buy a basic handheld VHF transceiver. You must have a license from the FCC in order to use this type of transceiver.
q Recognize psychological and physiological symptoms of depression and anxiety. q Learn about ways to volunteer during a disaster and evaluate your own interest in, and capacity for, doing so.
Recovery and Waves
??Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.??
— Henry Ford
In this chapter you will learn
- That pandemics can come in multiple waves
- About the role of the coroner during a pandemic
After reading this chapter, you will be able to
- Use the checklists as guides in your preparations
The Recovery Stage
The recovery stage will encompass some of the more unpleasant aspects of disaster, such as the handling of dead bodies, taking stock of who remains, restructuring any volunteer systems that were built, and recognizing that it may not truly be over.
Waves of a pandemic
In a pandemic, there can be multiple waves. Once people think the illness rates are subsiding, they are more comfortable attending social functions and do not pay as much attention to social distancing and proper isolation and infection control techniques, like hand-washing and cough etiquette.
This can lead to ongoing or new waves of influenza spread throughout the community. For this reason, it is important not to become too complacent once the threat appears to be gone.
Continue to monitor disease activity in your neighborhood through local health department reports (try Googling "who is sick"). Rely on the infection control techniques described in chapter 2, while continuing to monitor information on the pandemic locally, regionally, and nationally.
- If you have been sick with the circulating pandemic strain of influenza and recovered, you are now a survivor - immune to the circulating strain.
- As a survivor you can treat the sick without worry of becoming ill again, as long as the virus has not significantly evolved into a new strain.
It is important to note, however, if you did not become sick in a previous wave you may still be susceptible during subsequent waves.
- State and local jurisdictional public health departments should be able to determine the nature of the strains circulating locally and regionally through their laboratory surveillance activities.
Regardless, it is always best to use basic infection control precautions.
Take an Inventory
Now is a time when businesses may be beginning to open, and suppliers may be delivering goods and services again.
Take stock of your current situation and restock anything that may be needed. Now that you've survived the first wave, you'll know about items you wished you had put in your original kits, such as books, more toys and activities for the kids, and maybe some luxury items like chocolate or waterless shampoo.
While you may add comfort items to your kit, always remember the basics food, water, clothing, and medical supplies.
- Recruit willing survivors to fill leadership roles.
Survivors have always played important roles in emergency response, and a pandemic is no exception. Because they have developed a natural immunity to the virus, a survivor's role in caring for the ill cannot be overstated.
- Modify volunteer command structure as needed.
Throughout the pandemic, roles for volunteers will change as the needs of the community change.
* Continue assisting community partners such as the local health department, community groups, or fire department.
You can play an important role as a volunteer within existing structures as well as within your neighborhood watch groups.
Dealing with Death During a Pandemic
One of the more unfortunate and inevitable aspects of a pandemic is the increase in death rates in the community.