Red Cross urges residents to prepare for flu resurgence

Published 9:23 am Monday, September 28, 2009

Recent surveys by the American Red Cross show that 93 percent of Americans were planning to take extra steps to avoid getting the H1N1 flu (swine flu) (1). However, only 12 percent of those surveyed had taken the steps the Red Cross recommends to prepare for a disaster.

The Freeborn County Red Cross urges local residents to make a renewed effort to prepare for a possible resurgence of the H1N1 flu this fall — and for other emergencies such as fires, floods or storms.

“You are your best defense against emergencies,” said Imogene Opdahl. “The Red Cross can help you take simple steps to prepare yourself and your loved ones for emergencies ranging from severe weather to a flu outbreak.”

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The H1N1 flu survey, which was conducted in July by the Red Cross, found that more Americans are taking, or planning on taking, extra measures to cover their coughs and sneezes with tissues (78 percent) or wash their hands more carefully (76 percent) to avoid getting the flu compared to other preparedness actions. Less than half (46 percent) plan on assembling a two-week supply of food, water and medicine that they might need in the event they or someone in their family becomes sick and needs to stay home for an extended period of time.

The Red Cross recommends people take the following precautions to help guard against the flu:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are feeling sick.

As for all emergencies, the Red Cross recommends people start by taking three actions to prepare for disasters:

Get a kit: Assemble or purchase a portable emergency preparedness kit with enough supplies for three days in case you need to evacuate. The Red Cross also recommends having at least two weeks worth of supplies at home. Supplies should include water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, a 7-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents.

Make a plan: Make sure each person knows how to reach household members, including an out-of-area emergency contact person, and knows where to meet if they can’t go home.

Be informed: Learn about what resources are available and what types of disasters are most likely to occur where you live, learn, work and play. Take a first aid and CPR/AED course — a vital component of disaster preparedness in case emergency help is delayed.

The Red Cross created a free online education program to make it easier for people to get prepared. The Be Red Cross Ready program walks people through three key preparedness steps: getting an emergency kit, making an emergency plan and being informed and is available at

The Red Cross Joins the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign in celebrating National Preparedness Month. For more information about local activities during National Preparedness Month, contact the Freeborn County Red Cross chapter at 373-4544.

(1) H1N1 findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,002 U.S. adults 18 years and older conducted July 17-20.

(2) The general preparedness findings are based on an online survey of 1,306 U.S. residents 18 years and older conducted July 24-Aug. 7, 2009 by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Red Cross.