Many emergency response organizations are tracking the H7N9 avian influenza outbreak in China in case the virus spreads outside Asia. This article summarizes the situation, announces a webinar scheduled for 2 May 2013 and a community preparedness exercise being scheduled by the Disaster Resistant Communities Group for September.
[Draft 1.1 Corrected Webinar Time]
Summary of H7N9 Outbreak
The Influenza A (H7N9) virus was recently discovered in China. The H7 family of viruses is normally associated with diseases in poultry ("Avian flu") and sometimes crosses over into humans (as did the H7N7 virus), normally humans who have close contact with poultry. This particular virus has caused a number of human infections and some deaths (17 as of 19 April) and seems to have the ability to spread human-to-human (it has been found in people who do not have regular contact with poultry operations). The concern is that this virus may spread outside China and has potential to cause global mayhem if it spreads via our global transportations system. It should be noted that this virus is not and may not ever be an pandemic, but it bears close watch. It is also important to know that the virus *cannot spread* from cooked poultry products as the cooking destroys the virus. Raw poultry, as always, should be handled carefully and care should be taken to not cross-contaminate uncooked foods. For some unknown reason, elderly men appear to be more susceptible to the H7N9 virus ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-19/flu-experts-probe-h7n9-outbreak-as-cases-double-in-a-week.html ).
- Bloomberg article http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-19/flu-experts-probe-h7n9-outbreak-as-cases-double-in-a-week.html
- World Health Organization (WHO) summary http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/latest_update_h7n9/en/index.html
- Center For Disease Control (CDC) summary http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h7n9-virus.htm
- Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) page http://eden.lsu.edu/topics/agdisasters/avianflu/Pages/default.aspx includes signs of infected birds.
How The Community/Auxiliary Should Respond To a Pandemic
As a public health issue, response to a pandemic would be decided by the state Department of Health and Human Services and by the hospital systems locally. The Sheriff's Auxiliary might be involved to help keep order, to supplement Deputies down with the flu, or to assist with distribution of disaster supplies (PODs).
At the moment, there is no vaccine for H7N9. The usual recommended course for a rural county like ours would be self-quarantine: if people move around less, the spread of the virus would be slowed and hospitals will have an easier time dealing with the influx of patients. In order to do this effectively, people need to ensure that they are well stocked with food and other basic provisions so that they can avoid going to town to restock. Businesses can also make provisions to allow more employees to work from home during an outbreak to avoid spreading the illness at a place of business. People who do need to go out to conduct business during a self-quarantine can wear N-95 masks and use good hygiene to avoid bringing an illness home, so it is not a bad idea to have a few N-95 masks and some extra sanitizer on hand before an emergency occurs. A self-quarantine might last several weeks.
Since many people in this area raise poultry, it might not be a bad idea to read up on the issue and learn to recognize signs of influenza in your poultry.
Webinar on H7N9 Outbreak
The EDEN (Extension Disaster Education Network) Avian Influenza Response team will conduct an informational H7N9 webinar May 2, 2013. The webinar will be an hour starting at 11 am EST (10:00 Central). The link is https://gomeet.itap.purdue.edu/h7n9/ .
Community Preparedness Exercise
The Disaster Resistant Communities Group is conducting a series of tabletop exercises over the Internet for neighborhood and community response groups. One of these, scheduled for 12 September 2013, is on response to an influenza pandemic. Community groups can participate from any community room or hall, such as a church hall, where Internet access is available. Pre-registration for groups is required so that you have an account to access the exercise system.