The term pandemic signifies the extraordinary spread of a human disease on an global scale which rapidly affects all parts of the world and over 25% of the global population. A pandemic occurs when a new virus appears, against which the human immune system has no defence.
A influenza pandemic can be the result of an animal flu strain transforming into a flu virus capable of affecting humans.
Four simple hygiene measures
Four simple hygiene measures can be taken to limit the risks of infection:
- wash your hands regularly for 30 seconds, rubbing them with soap or an antibacterial gel;
- use tissues to blow your nose, throw them in the dustbin and then wash your hands;
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or at least do so into the crook of your elbow;
- air out rooms regularly, three to four times per day, for 10 minutes at a time.
A vaccine can only be developed once the virus responsible for the flu pandemic has appeared and been identified.
Antiviral medication administered to patients and members of their families, close contacts and healthcare personnel can be useful at the very start of a flu pandemic.
Firstly, antiviral medication increases chances of survival of the people infected. In addition, they can prevent the spread of the virus to others close to the patient and thus reduce its capacity to spread between humans.
Hygiene measures to be followed by patients and their families
The patients and their loved ones should follow the following basic hygiene measures closely:
- wash their hands several times per day with soap for 30 seconds, taking care to wash between the fingers;
- cough into a tissue, throwing it into the bin after use and washing hands. If there is no tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow and not into the hands. This prevents the virus being spread by the hands;
- avoid bodily contact, including embraces, kisses, handshakes, etc.;
- clean any surfaces used by different people (such as in the kitchen or bathroom) with soap or an alcohol-based solution;
- air rooms regularly (three to four times per day, for 10 minutes at a time).