Be­ing safe: How you can pre­pare for a likely na­tional out­break

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Krieger

In a warn­ing Tues­day, fed­eral health of­fi­cials warned that Amer­ica’s busi­nesses, neigh­bor­hoods, schools and fam­i­lies should start pre­par­ing for the prospect of an Amer­i­can out­break of coronaviru­s.

This week’s ac­cel­er­at­ing spread of the virus in Italy, South Korea and Iran is prov­ing the power of the virus to ig­nite in com­mu­ni­ties far from China — and prepa­ra­tion will help Amer­ica re­duce its deadly toll, said Dr. Nancy Mes­son­nier, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Im­mu­niza­tion and Res­pi­ra­tory Dis­eases.

These strate­gies may in­clude mak­ing sick-leave poli­cies more flex­i­ble in work

place set­tings, tem­po­rar­ily dis­miss­ing schools, avoid­ing close con­tact with others, and can­cel­ing large pub­lic events

“It’s not so much of a ques­tion of if this will hap­pen in this coun­try any more but a ques­tion of when this will hap­pen,” she said at a Tues­day press brief­ing by the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion. “Ul­ti­mately we ex­pect we will see com­mu­nity spread in the United States.

“We want to pre­pare Amer­i­cans for the pos­si­bil­ity that their lives will be dis­rupted,” she said.

As of Tues­day, there are 40 cases among U.S. res­i­dents who were pas­sen­gers on the virus-stricken Di­a­mond Princess cruise ship in Ja­pan. An ad­di­tional three cases were re­ported in peo­ple repa­tri­ated from Hubei Prov­ince, China, back to the U.S.

An­other 14 cases of the virus were di­ag­nosed in peo­ple who trav­eled re­cently to China or their close con­tacts.

What alarms U.S. of­fi­cials is the widen­ing globe scope of disease. Pre­vi­ously un­touched, South Korea now has nearly 1,000 cases. Iran con­firmed 95 cases and at least 15 deaths. In Italy, with 322 cases, the num­ber of deaths grew to 10.

“As more and more coun­tries ex­pe­ri­ence com­mu­nity spread, suc­cess­ful con­tain­ment at our bor­ders be­comes harder and harder,” Mes­son­nier said.

“When it has hit those coun­tries, it has moved quite rapidly. We want to make sure the Amer­i­can pub­lic is pre­pared,” she said.

Be­cause the coronaviru­s is new, we have no im­mu­nity against it. This al­lows the virus to spread quickly from per­son to per­son. There are no pro­tec­tive vac­cines or ther­a­peu­tic drugs.

Bor­row­ing from emer­gency plans de­signed for pan­demic flu, the CDC is urg­ing fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties to take spe­cific steps called “non­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal In­ter­ven­tions” that can help slow the spread of deadly ill­ness.

For fam­i­lies and house­holds, they in­clude:

• Meet with house­hold mem­bers, other rel­a­tives, and friends to dis­cuss what should be done if a pan­demic oc­curs and what the needs of each per­son will be.

• Dis­cuss ways to care for those at greater risk for se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, if the ser­vices they rely on aren’t avail­able.

• If your neigh­bor­hood has a web­site or so­cial me­dia page, con­sider join­ing it to stay con­nected to neigh­bors, in­for­ma­tion, and re­sources.

• Iden­tify or­ga­ni­za­tions in your com­mu­nity that can of­fer as­sis­tance. Con­sider in­clud­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide men­tal health or coun­sel­ing ser­vices, food, and other sup­plies.

• Cre­ate an emer­gency con­tact list. En­sure that your house­hold has a cur­rent list of emer­gency con­tacts for fam­ily, friends, neigh­bors, car­pool driv­ers, health care providers, teachers, em­ploy­ers, the lo­cal pub­lic health de­part­ment, and other com­mu­nity re­sources.

• Plan to have ex­tra sup­plies of im­por­tant items on hand, such as soap, hand san­i­tizer, tis­sues, and dis­pos­able face­masks.

• Choose a room in your home that can be used to sep­a­rate sick house­hold mem­bers from those who are healthy. If pos­si­ble, also choose a bath­room for the sick per­son to use. Plan to clean these rooms daily. Learn how to care for some­one at home and how to clean a flu pa­tient’s room.

• Pre­pare for pos­si­ble school clo­sures, iden­ti­fy­ing al­ter­na­tive child­care.

“I con­tinue to hope that we’ll look back and say we over­pre­pared,” said Mes­son­nier. “But that’s a bet­ter place to be than un­der­pre­pared.

“Any prepa­ra­tion we do as a coun­try, school, busi­ness and fam­ily will al­ways be help­ful what­ever the next event is,” she said. “Prepa­ra­tion will never go to waste.”

Learn more about how to pre­pare at https://www.cdc.gov/non­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal-in­ter­ven­tions/in­dex.html.

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