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Preparing For Pandemic Flu

Because of the potential for a pandemic flu, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department wants you to know more about this possible health threat.  This guide includes basic information about pandemic flu, individual and family preparedness, as well as where you can get more information. To learn more about us, visit www.sccphd.org or call 408-885-3980.

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What You Should Know

Pandemic influenza (flu) is a worldwide outbreak of a new flu virus for which there is little or no immunity (protection) in the human population.  Scientists and health professionals are concerned that the current virus in birds (avian flu) may develop into the next human pandemic. Pandemic flu can spread easily from person-to-person, cause serious illness and death. When new pandemic flu spreads it creates a public health emergency.  This emergency will not be like anything we've faced before. A pandemic will last longer, make more people seriously ill and may cause more deaths than any other health crisis in our time.

A long-lasting and widespread outbreak of the disease could mean changes in many areas of our lives.  Schools might need to temporarily close.  Public transportation could be limited and air flights may be cancelled. Because so many people will be ill, many employees will not be able to go to work and many businesses and public services may have to close or limit hours.

It is very important to plan ahead.  Federal, state and local governments are taking steps to better prepare for and respond to a pandemic.  Individuals also need to take action to be better prepared.

What You Can Do

Preparing for a pandemic flu can reduce your chances of getting sick and help limit the spread of disease.

Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, exercising daily, getting enough rest and drinking fluids. And get your seasonal flu shot.

Stay informed by keeping up-to-date on a possible pandemic by listening to radio & television, reading news stories and checking out the web.

These common-sense steps can help stop the spread of influenza germs:
  • Wash hands frequently using soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Put used tissues in the trash and then wash your hands.
  • If you get sick, stay home and away from others as much as possible.
  • Don't send sick children to school.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Your Pandemic Flu Emergency Kit

As many as 1 in 4 people could get sick during a pandemic, with many of them seriously ill. Services and supplies we count on everyday may not be available. Every individual and family could be on their own, without care, for quite a while. This makes being prepared even more important.

Because everyday life may be different during a pandemic flu and services could be disrupted, make sure you have these items in your emergency preparedness kit.
  • Two weeks worth of food for you and your family. This should be food that does not need refrigeration. Foods like canned meats and fish, beans, soups, fruits, and dry goods like flour, salt, and sugar, are good choices.
  • Water stored in sealed, unbreakable containers. If water service is disrupted, plan on one gallon for each person for each day, for up to two weeks.
  • Two weeks worth of prescription medicines.
  • Two weeks worth of ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for each person in the house for fever and pain. A two-week supply of cough medicine.
  • Rehydration Solution, for example Pedialyte for kids, Gatorade for adults and teens. Please see the box below for instructions to make a rehydration solution for adults and teens. For children, especially infants and toddlers, a store-bought solution is strongly recommended.
  • Cell phone and charger.
  • Supply of face masks and plastic gloves. These will help protect you, especially if you are taking care of family members who are sick with the disease.
  • Disinfectants and chlorine bleach.
You can get more information on putting together a complete Emergency Preparedness Plan and Kit from the American Red Cross. Call 408-577-1000 or visit their web site at www.redcross.org.

Rehydration Solution for Adults & Teens
4 cups of clean water
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Mix all the ingredients until the sugar disappears. You can drink the solution at room temperature.
Please note: Do not boil the solution because that will reduce the solution's helpfulness.

Learn More

Keep up-to-date on a possible pandemic flu by listening to radio and television, and reading news stories about pandemic flu.
  • Go to www.sccphd.org for more information and Fact Sheets on Pandemic Flu, Avian Flu, and Isolation & Quarantine.
  • Go to www.cdc.gov for general information about pandemic flu and other health related information.
  • Go to www.redcross.org for all the information you will need to make your own emergency preparation plan.
  • Go to www.pandemicflu.gov for updates on national and international pandemic flu.
For Travel Information and Warnings

During a Pandemic Flu

Here are some things you will need to know about during a pandemic flu.  Please remember, information will change during the pandemic and it will be important to keep up-to-date and follow public health orders

Public Health Instructions
Throughout a pandemic flu you may be asked or required to do things to help hold back the spread of the disease in our community. If local public health officials or your healthcare provider ask you to take certain actions, follow those instructions.

Here are some examples of what you may be asked or required to do.
  • When you are sick, stay home. Children should not go to school if they are sick. Staying home will be absolutely necessary during a pandemic flu to limit the spread of the disease.
  • Even though you may be healthy, you could be asked to stay away from gatherings of people such as sporting events, movies and festivals. During a pandemic flu, these kinds of events could be cancelled because large gatherings of people help spread the flu virus.
Isolation and Quarantine are public health actions used to contain the spread of a contagious disease. If asked, it will be important to follow Isolation and/or Quarantine instructions.

Isolation is for people who are already ill.  When someone is isolated, they are separated from people who are healthy. Having the sick person isolated (separated from others) can help to slow or stop the spread of disease. People who are isolated can be cared for in their homes, in hospitals, or in other healthcare facilities. Isolation is usually voluntary, but local, state and federal government have the power to require the isolation of sick people to protect the public.

Quarantine is for people who have been exposed to the disease but are not sick. When someone is placed in quarantine, they are also separated from others. Even though the person is not sick at the moment, they were exposed to the disease and may still become infectious and then spread the disease to others. Quarantine can help to slow or stop this from happening. States generally have the power to enforce quarantines within their borders.

Prevent the Spread of Disease at Home

If you or a household member becomes ill during a pandemic flu and are being cared for at home, follow these instructions to control the spread of disease in the home.

Isolate the ill person WITHIN your home.
  • The person who is ill should not leave the house unless they are being taken to a medical appointment. The sick person will have to stay home for two weeks after their symptoms begin, even if they are feeling better. Do not have visitors while the person is sick.
  • Designate a room(s) only for the ill person(s) so they are separated from other household members. The room(s) should have a door that can be closed.
  • The ill person should wear a protective mask when anyone is in the same room or car. People in the room or car with the ill person should also wear a protective mask. Disposable gloves should be used when cleaning or disinfecting any room or area where the sick person has been.
Wash hands with soap or use alcohol-based hand rubs.
  • Everyone in the household - and it is important to remind children - should wash their hands with soap between contacts with others, before preparing food, and before eating.
  • Wash hands after touching tissues or surfaces soiled with saliva or nose drainage.
Keep the household environment clean.
  • On a daily basis, clean surfaces and commonly shared items like microwaves, refrigerator handles, phones, remote controls, doorknobs and handles, toilet seats and handles, faucets, light switches and toys. Use a labeled household disinfectant or chlorine bleach mixture (see below).
  • Store brand chlorine bleach can be used as a disinfectant by mixing 1/4 cup chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water.
Cover noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing.
  • Remind children and others to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, or to sneeze or cough into their sleeves. Put used tissues in a wastebasket, and then wash hands with soap or use an alcohol-based rub.
  • Even when a person is wearing a mask, they should cough or sneeze into their sleeve.
Watch all household members for symptoms of respiratory illness.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if a fever or other symptoms such as chills, cough, sore throat, headache, or muscle aches develop.
Make sure supplies are on hand.
  • Keep supplies of masks, gloves, soap, tissues, paper towels and cleaning supplies on hand.
  • Make sure all sinks and restrooms are stocked with soap and paper towels.
  • Make sure that tissues are available in all bedrooms and common areas like living, dining, family, and computer rooms.

Important Phone Numbers

The following are numbers for non-emergency calls and can provide disaster related assistance and preparedness information.

Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services: 408-808-7800
Public Health Information Line: 408-885-3980
CalTrans (highway information): 1-800-427-7623

Please contact your City Government about your Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Your Own Important Numbers

Write down important numbers and keep them close. These include friends and family home and cellular numbers, your doctor or clinic, and your children's school.

Getting Information

Local radio and television stations, as well as a number of web sites, will provide information during a pandemic flu.  In some instances, specific emergency instructions will be broadcast by:
    KSJO - FM 92.3
    KQED - FM 88.5
    KCBS - AM 740

During a pandemic flu, emergency instructions may include ways to protect your health, as well as closings of schools and businesses, and canceling events.

Where to Find Emergency Medical Care

During a pandemic flu, it will be important NOT to go to the hospital except in the case of a medical emergency. Hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients during a pandemic and many sick people may have to be cared for at home or at a non-hospital location.


El Camino Hospital
2500 Grant Road
Mountain View, CA  94039-7025
Regional Medical Center of San Jose (Trauma Center)
225 North Jackson Avenue
San Jose, CA  95116-1603
Good Samaritan Hospital - San Jose
2425 Samaritan Drive
San Jose, CA  95124-3997
Saint Louise Regional Hospital
9400 No Name Uno
Gilroy, CA  95020-3528
Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center
710 Lawrence Expressway
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 851-1000
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (Trauma Center)
751 South Bascom Avenue
San Jose, CA  95128-2604
Kaiser Permanente Santa Teresa Medical Center
250 Hospital Parkway
San Jose, CA  95119
Stanford Hospital and Clinics (Trauma Center)
300 Pasteur Drive
Palo Alto, CA  94304-2299
O'Connor Hospital
2105 Forest Avenue
San Jose, CA  95128-1471

Call 911 only in the event of a serious, life-threatening emergency. But remember, because a pandemic flu could be bigger than any other health emergency, 911 may be overwhelmed by the number of calls.

Seasonal Flu vs. Pandemic Flu

There are some key differences in how seasonal flu happens and how a pandemic flu happens.

Seasonal Flu
Pandemic Flu
  • Usually follows a predictable pattern, typically every year in the winter. There is usually some protection built up in a person from having the flu before.
  • Doesn't happen often - only three times in the 20th century. The last time was 1968. Since this new pandemic flu hasn't been before, there is no or little immunity.
  • Healthy adults are not usually at risk for any serious complications.
  • Healthy people may be at risk for serious complications.
  • The medical community can usually meet public and patient needs.
  • The medical community will be overwhelmed.
  • Vaccines are developed before the flu season, based on known virus strains.
  • Vaccine developed early may not be effective. Once an effective vaccine is developed, it may not be available for several months.
  • Supplies of antiviral drugs are usually available.
  • May not have any effective antiviral drugs or the supply may be limited.
  • Average number of deaths in the US is about 36,000 a year.
  • The number of deaths would be much higher, worldwide it could be millions.
  • Regular flu symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, and muscle pain.
  • Symptoms would be more serious and there would be more medical complications.
  • A small impact on the community with sick people staying home from work and school.
  • Big impact on the community. There could be travel restrictions, school closings, limited business hours or closings, and canceling of public gatherings.
  • Small impact on US and world economy.
  • Could have a big impact on US and world economy.