Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Bird Flu: 10 Questions, 10 Answers

What You Can Do; What the Government Is Doing

continued...

Those caring for sick people during a flu pandemic should wear a facemask, according to WHO and CDC recommendations.

The best way to limit the spread of flu isn't a facemask. It's following these simple hygiene rules:

  • Wash your hands often using soap and water. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. Discard used tissues in a wastebasket.
  • Don't have a tissue? Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and water or an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.

Even if you get sick during a flu pandemic, you're less likely to get severely ill if you're healthy. If you're worried about getting the flu:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Drink a lot of water. If you drink alcohol, be moderate.
  • Regular exercise is essential for good health.
  • Get a full night's sleep every night.

4. What can the government do about bird flu?

The U.S. has a pandemic flu preparedness plan. This includes plans for deciding which people most urgently need scarce hospital beds and medicines, deploying response teams, increasing hospital capacity, and, when necessary, enforcing patient isolation and quarantine.

The government will try to delay the arrival of a flu pandemic by isolating ill travelers arriving from affected areas. This is not expected to prevent a pandemic from sweeping the country.

In the event of a flu pandemic, the first thing that will happen is that schools will close. Public gatherings will be discouraged or forbidden. People will be urged to work from home.

It's expected that about 40% of children and 20% of working adults will get the flu during a pandemic. Overall, about a third of the population is expected to get ill. At least half of infected people are expected to seek medical care.

The government is stockpiling antiviral medicines. How large this stockpile will be depends on how soon a pandemic hits. Eventually, the U.S. hopes to stockpile enough flu drugs to treat 25% of the U.S. population.

The government will deploy its stockpiled bird-flu vaccine, but it's not clear this will be effective. A truly effective vaccine should start to appear about six months after the pandemic begins. It will take two vaccinations, weeks apart, for a person to become protected.

Vaccines will be distributed to people in order of priority, in two tiers, with group A having the highest priority in each tier. This list, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, does not include the 1.5 million members of the military considered essential to ongoing operations and military medicine.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
blowing nose
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear
Article
 
woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
Bacterial or Viral Infection
Video
 
How To Calm Your Cough
Quiz
Sore Throat
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections