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Before a Flu Outbreak

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Learn what to expect if a flu outbreak becomes a pandemic

  • In a pandemic, many people are likely to become ill at the same time.
  • To reduce the chances of spreading the flu, infected people may be quarantined or separated from people who have not been exposed.
  • Even healthy people who have been exposed to the virus may be isolated to protect others.
  • Public transportation, gathering places, events, schools, and businesses may shut down, close, or be canceled.
  • Community services and utilities may be disrupted.
  • Health care services could become overwhelmed.

Stay informed

Stay tuned to news and media reports on the flu. Seek information on public services that you use. Since those services may be suspended, plan for alternatives ahead of time. Follow updates provided by local public health authorities and personal health care providers.

Stay healthy

Learn and practice healthy habits to help slow the spread of illnesses:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or use your sleeve.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

Stay connected

Collect and keep track of important contact information for people you may need to reach during a flu pandemic. In case of travel restrictions, prepare to stay in touch by telephone, e-mail, and other means.

Plan ahead

During a flu pandemic, government officials may be required to limit community movement or impose travel restrictions to help prevent the flu virus from spreading. Prepare for the possibility of reduced public services by identifying and offering alternative sources of help. Things to keep in mind:

  • You may be asked to stay home for an extended period of time even if you are not sick.
  • Schools, workplaces, and public gatherings such as sporting events or worship services may close temporarily.
  • Mass transportation such as subways, buses, trains, and air travel may be limited.
  • Think about how you handle stress and know your strengths. Take steps to plan for, get through, and recover from a flu pandemic.

Planning at home

Store a two-week supply of food, water, and other essentials.

  • Select foods that do not require refrigeration, preparation or cooking.
  • Include formula for infants and dependent’s special nutritional needs in your planning.
  • Plan for your pets as well.
  • Store a two-week supply of water, 1 gallon of water per person per day, in clean plastic containers. Avoid using containers that will decompose or break, such as milk cartons or glass bottles.
  • Store a supply of nonprescription drugs, such as pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, stomach remedies, and anti-diarrheal medication, as well as vitamins and fluids with electrolytes (such as sports drinks).
  • Store health and cleaning supplies, such as bleach, tissues, a thermometer, disposable gloves, soap, and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Ask your health care provider and insurer if you can get an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs and medical supplies, such as glucose monitoring supplies.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick.

Planning in your community

Ask about plans to enable you to stay home if you are or a family member is sick. Find out your employer’s plans to keep the business open if key staff can’t come to work. Find out now about your child’s school or daycare provider’s plans for handling a flu pandemic.

  • Ask if there are plans to encourage sick children to stay home.
  • Ask if there are plans to close during a pandemic.

For more information on the flu, see: