What You Should Do to Prepare for an Epidemic

ByABC News
October 16, 2008, 2:46 PM

March 12, 2006 — -- Will there be an outbreak of avian flu that threatens humans? Many experts disagree on when or if a human pandemic will occur, but do say there is a chance that the virus could mutate, leading to widespread infection. In that case, the best thing you and your family can do right now is to prepare for that possibility.

Here's what you need to know to help keep yourself healthy.

Stock up on Essentials

If there is an avian flu pandemic, you'll want to minimize your chance of catching it by staying indoors; you might even be required to stay home if the government asks that people remain in quarantine or "shelter in place." Stocking up today on at least seven days' worth of essentials such as water, nonperishable food, emergency and medical supplies will help you get through an extended time at home if an outbreak happens. Once you've purchased these items, store them in a place where you will not be tempted to dip into them for everyday use. See the checklist below for guidelines on what and how much you need.

Have an Outbreak Plan

It may feel odd or uncomfortable to talk to family members and loved ones about the worst-case pandemic scenario. But if that scenario strikes, you'll all be much better off if you have a plan decided on and ready. Talk with your friends and family about how you'd respond to an epidemic. Figure out how you would care for them and what your first response and responsibilities would be; this is an especially important conversation to have with those with special care needs. Get involved with local groups and community efforts aimed at preparing for a pandemic. If your community has no program in place yet, find out how you and your neighbors can get one started.

Pick up the Habits of Healthy Behavior

The habits that can help keep you healthy in an outbreak are the same good health habits that can keep you from catching the common cold: maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get sufficient rest. Particularly in a flu outbreak situation, it will be important to wash your hands thoroughly and often, reminding loved ones -- especially children --