As you are preparing for hazards like wildfires and floods, it's important to also prepare for health emergencies. Health emergencies can vary in size from an outbreak of food poisoning at a community event to a pandemic illness.
Sometimes health emergencies can be scary; you can't see, touch or smell diseases the same way that you can smell the smoke from a wildfire or see the flood waters rising. Although thinking about these things can be upsetting, it's important to learn how to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible.
What are federal, state and local public health agencies doing to prepare?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, Oregon Health Authority, Josephine County Public Health and Jackson County Health and Human Services have developed many emergency plans to respond to health emergencies. State and local health departments are also working with healthcare facilities, businesses, faith-based organizations and other community groups to help them prepare.
What can you do to prepare?
Start by staying healthy! It sounds simple, like what your grandmother used to tell you, but staying healthy can increase your chances of success in any disaster!
- Get a yearly flu shot
- Make sure children are current on immunizations
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Cook foods to the proper temperature and store them in a safe manner
- Get plenty of rest
- Limit consumption of alcohol and tobacco
- Dress appropriately for the weather
- Wear sunscreen
- Follow health advisories from Public Health officials
- Exercise regularly
If a lot of people are sick, Public Health officials may implement something called Community Mitigation Strategies. Community Mitigation Strategies are ways that members of the community can work together to limit the spread of disease until a vaccine or a cure is available. This can be done in a number of ways:
- Closing schools, daycares and after-school programs
- Canceling public gatherings
- Asking businesses to have workers work from home (telecommuting)
- Asking businesses to modify their leave policies
In addition, Public Health officials may ask that people follow isolation and quarantine guidelines. In order for community mitigation strategies to work, community members must follow the instructions from Public Health officials. Although some of these measures can disrupt our daily lives, it's important to follow guidelines for everyone's safety!
Stay home when you're sick!
With many illnesses, you are more contagious when you first become sick. Staying home limits the spread of germs to other people, and can help you get better more quickly.
Cover your cough!
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. Put your used tissues in a waste basket. After coughing or sneezing, wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice) or clean your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.
During a health emergency:
- Stay informed about the status of the illness (television, radio, newspapers, internet)
- Learn what you can do to protect yourself
- Follow instructions from Public Health Officials
Public Health Terminology
Isolation - When a person who is sick is asked to stay home for a specified period of time. This helps to ensure that the person doesn't infect others with the disease.
Quarantine - When people who may have been exposed to a disease are asked to stay home for a specified period of time. In some cases, a person can spread an illness before they even know they are sick.
TIP: Consider creating your own stockpile of the medications, vitamins and other health care supplies you would need to have on hand if help was not available for an extended period of time.