Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flu News on NPR

Transmission In U.S. So Far Not From Casual Contact

Ira Longini of the University of Washington is collecting data on the U.S. outbreaks to plug into computer models that estimate the speed of transmission. "We're not seeing community-wide transmissions," Longini says. "Those would be contacts in casual settings such as subways or movie houses or restaurants or places where people come close to one another but don't spend a lot of time together."

Longini says all the U.S. cases of swine flu so far have involved someone who was infected in Mexico and then infected close contacts in schools or their own families — not casual contacts.

But Fukuda [the WHO's chief flu adviser, Dr. Keiji Fukuda] says the world "is in the process of moving" to Phase 6 — a pandemic. However, he says, "we still need to see the evidence that we are there." Swine flu cases could develop explosively, fizzle out entirely or disappear with warm weather and come roaring back in the fall, as the fearsome flu pandemic of 1918-19 did, he said. [emphasis mine]

The WHO will be watching the Southern Hemisphere closely in the coming months, as it enters its main flu season.

Imnsho if we get a reprieve until the Fall, when they hope to have vaccines in circulation, we'll be fine. I'm still considering whether I'll need to spend the summer out of town. If this ratchets up children at least, I predict, will be sent to country relatives. This is not a bad thing.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Concrete Steps - First, gather info and assess

The other day I wrote about what to do under stress. The first Rule is Don't Panic. Second Rule is Breathe. I wrote a bit about the next steps, and this post will give more detailed suggestions.

First of all, I'm not a worrier. I pay attention, I get concerned, but worry does not rule my life. I have, in the past, had anxiety problems, but no more. It's a different topic, but a crucial one for being able to plan for your family. Don't let fear overtake or immobilize you.

Rule 1 - Don't panic.
Rule 2 - Breathe. Separate what you can change from what you cannot change.

Step 1 - Assess your situation, gather information
Step 2 - Create an emergency plan
Step 3 - Create an action plan (to be prepared)
Step 4 - Prioritize action plan.
Step 5 - Do your action plan (get prepared),
Step 6 - Review and see if you missed anything, continue to gather info, adjust your plans as needed
Step 7 - See what else you can do for your community

Before you start: Separate things you can do something about from things you cannot. This is a matter of habitual discipline for me. I cannot change that a baby died from the flu, that many are in a panic in Mexico City or that my oldest children live in TN.

I can choose to respond rather than react and do what I need to do for myself, my children and my friends. Once that is all together, I can volunteer for my community.

Remember, as they say on every flight, if you are with a small child (or taking care of others) PUT THE OXYGEN MASK OVER YOUR OWN FACE FIRST. Don't try to care for any one else before you take care of your own basic needs. This is about doing the most good, being on your game, not being selfish. It's just common sense people (in the voice of my favorite English Teacher of all time, Ms. Griffo) (lol).

Use discipline to focus on what needs to be done, plan and prioritize.

Spend some time each day listening to experts on the POTENTIAL flu pandemic. This is a key part of gathering information so you can make better decisions. Solid facts lead to plans that make sense.

For instance, I didn't know or forgot that alcohol doesn't kill viruses. I thought it killed everything! Alcohol hand washes are helpful but not fool-proof. But I remembered that soap and hot water kill the AIDS virus, and that AIDS is a very unstable virus outside of a human. So now I'd like to know if the same is true of the H1-N1 flu virus that we are now facing.

I also remembered a report recently on an extensive study of sneezing, and that subjects were instructed to sneeze on their fellow card players (yuk!) and there was no significant increase in the spread of colds. It was fascinating that they also had the other players touch their noses and faces in a scheduled way, and this also didn't increase the transmission of the virus. Very interesting. Something I'll look up further.

I know more than most about the 1918 flu epidemic but I keep listening to gather more info.
  1. It was the very first time we had ever encountered an H1-N1 virus (the type we are now facing.
  2. We did not have antibiotics available en masse, nor did we have any flu vaccines.
  3. Communication methods were relatively slow, data was difficult to gather and manage
  4. World War 1 effectively ended because so many people died. Soldiers coming home spread the virus globally
  5. Now we are in a much better position in almost every way.
Because I have done my homework there is no reason to think this will be as bad, at least not in the same ways. So scare tactics by so called "experts" when they compare this virus to that one, are worse than misleading. It's bullshit.

Today I'm researching the local authorities' plans for pandemics. Doesn't look great yet for St. Louis, (found a draft dated 2006) but you can search for your own city's plan.

I found this article with a nice excerpt on getting prepared:
How Individuals Can Prepare
  • Stock Up: Store nonperishable foods, bottled water, medicine, health supplies and other necessities. A two-week supply of food and a three-day supply of water is recommended in the event of a pandemic. These supplies can also be useful in other emergencies, such as power outages. See checklist below.
  • Practice Good Health Habits: Wash your hands with soap and water frequently during the day. Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Plan Ahead: Consider what you would do if you could not go to work, schools were cancelled, or a family member became sick and needed care. Make sure your family knows your plan, and ask about emergency plans at your work and child's school.
  • Stay Informed: Keep plugged-in to local media reports, as well as public health officials like the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the American Red Cross.
Some info I knew, some was reminders, and bingo, I found a list of things to make sure are on hand. I remembered that the Red Cross will be instrumental and may need volunteers. Also this link is great for a clear information. (Note that the tabs, Overview, Facts, Plan, etc for each section are in light grey just under the blue "Pandemic Flu" banner or graphic - not so easy to find on the page.)

I will also be turning to FlyLady to gather personal information, useful during any emergency.

A few years ago, I made a family plan for any crisis. It was similar to what you do when you are teaching your children how to respond to a fire. What do you do first, where do you go, who do you call. What do you do if Plan A fails?? It helped me tremendously during the Y2K scare, (which didn't actually scare me much) and after 9/11. Similar to making my will, it gave me great peace of mind. I kept it for years, and loved the way it came together for me.

Here is a link for creating your own plan.

Another surprisingly good source of information is the National PTA flu website. They are already setting up clinics and have lots of good info for us.

So this is the first step, in detail. Assess the situation, gather information. Continue to do this throughout the planning process, which is your next step.

If you are ready for step two, planning, move on. I'll keep writing on these steps. (It's nice to do something with the disaster training I've had.)

Keep coming back. And keep praying. G-d likes to hear from you.

Shalom and Peace out :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rule Number One - Don't Panic.

Long ago when I was teaching computer courses, I ran an introduction and then made a couple of points before we started. I pointed out that software (and technical) classes run fast, and you might get stuck or lost. I'd been in it long enough to lay out these rules:

Rule Number 1: Do not panic.
Rule Number 2: Breathe. If necessary, take a deep breath.

Then I went on to assure my students that I was pretty sure I could fix anything that happened in class, and that if I couldn't someone else on staff could, for instance if the computer started smoking or melting. This was their day to make mistakes, in fact, and learn from them. So we practiced getting unstuck and recovering from messes they created.

They loved it. I took all their fears, at least most of those related to the class, and dealt with them up front. We did great classes together. I told them it was my job to fix things, and I did.

Ironically the Diane Rehm Show had a two great segments this morning, related to the latest world-disaster. Melt-down du jour. It was very helpful to hear two top doctors from Johns Hopkins and NIH discuss the swine flu. The next segment, on dealing with anxiety and stress, was an interview with the author of the book, One Less Thing to Worry About.

It was very informative to hear an expert confirm what we already know. Some people handle stress well, some don't. Those who obsess or run/hide from stress are in the latter group. People who do something about it, are "healthy".

I once told a boss, after he let over 200 contracts gravitate to my desk, in my second week on the job, that if his arm got cut off, I'd stop the bleeding first. Then I'd identify what happened.

It's the approach of a medic, not a soldier. I'm fairly sure a soldier would do a better threat assessment. Now all good medics do one too, if with less emphasis, or they don't last.

Your Responsibility
So whether you are a healer or a fighter, or both, let's start with, Don't Panic.

Shutting down your ability to assess the risks, and act accordingly doesn't help.

Secondly, breathe. Take a moment and decide what you can and cannot do.

Sensible precautions make sense. Wash hands, eat well, exercise, avoid things that stress you out, stock up on healthy vitamins and foods. You do this not ony for stress relief, but to prepare in case you do get sick, or someone in your family needs you.

I once had a great reflexologist, in Charlotte, a Chinese man. He had some serious issues, but was a great healer. He pointed out that colds are floating around all the time, and many people don't get them. In fact, most people don't catch colds. His advice was to keep your system healthy, and you'd be immune. Of course science has borne this out over and over again. We don't know why some people catch the rhino (cold) virus and others don't.

We do know that using alcohol "washes" or sanitzers, does not kill viruses, but only bacteria. And we do know that the AIDs virus can be easily killed with hot soap and water.

In the midst of our economic crisis, there are many who aren't ready for more bad news. I'd suggest you get ready. That means doing what needs to be done.

Separate what you can change from what you cannot. Then take one simple step on something you can change. Then do the next step. That's it.

It's not rocket science, thank goodness.

Corporate Responsibility

During the avian bird flu scare I heard (on NPR) that the federal government expected businesses to take all necessary precautions to protect their workers in the event of a pandemic. I asked my then-boss, the firm administrator about this, and she didn't know anything about it. Firm employed about 250 - 300 people.

I'd bet that most companies have the same approach - willful disregard. It's willful because in most companies, especially now when they have an excuse of just trying to stay afloat, no one wants to take responsibility for disaster planning. I used to work in this field, and it's important, as all risk management is, but often overlooked.

If you work at a corporation, or even small company, you may want to ask if they have a plan. If not, help make one.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Social media and Twitter

I have a friend who is a Social Media bombshell. He's in up to his chin. I don't envy him but he does have over 3,000 followers. A few years ago he would have simply been an uber-networker. It's an asset, a skill we all at least pay attention to, if not develop; we have always had friends and colleagues.

Twittering, perhaps a fad (too soon to call) has gone off big enough in the technoratti to become almost passe already.

Another bleeding edge friend of mine says that "agility" is the new area to focus on - that is, helping companies identify who knows what best, and putting them on the right jobs/projects.

I suspect that the two (social media and agility) may intersect at some point, when technology evolves to support such a leap.

As far as Twitter goes, I'd say that it's not the same animal as either Facebook or other social media tools. Facebook is my personal space, to share with friends and some business associates I consider friends. LinkedIn is a professional networking site. My blog is just for my writings and issues I care about. But Twitter a) feeds to my Facebook status, b) lets me follow people I like more closely and c) feeds me info that I'm interested in (based on good filtering).

It filters feeds from friends. Some Tweets go to my phone, many don't and all those Facebook status updates don't. I can pick and choose. Some people who are good with Twitter, (it's much less complex) don't do Facebook. I don't care if strangers or companies follow me on Twitter and assume many ignore me. It's mutual.

It's an integrator and info filter - I don't have time to find good info all over the net, but my trusted "feeds" do, and they send me links. I pick and choose what I'm interested in reading further.

Some will ignore the Twitter-esque, truncated universe and others will stay with it for a while. If it becames inundated with people who have too much time, it would fail. But I don't think that will happen.

It has built in shedding, which the Slate writer identified - if no one follows you, and you can't find people worth following, eventually you quit.

If you don't tweet, or get bored with it, yeah, you probably don't need the aggravation. Not everyone wants pivot tables in Excel either.

Then again, I don't NEED a sun roof in my car either, but I have to smile when I get to enjoy the sunshine on my shoulders.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Favorite Guide

Excerpt from Chapter 38 Accept Impermanence, Loss, and Joy

To open ourselves to the joy of a loving union means accepting the possibility of loss. To be able to love, we need to accept the melancholy of life, the little losses of every day and the great loss called death. Paradoxically, once we accept that change, loss, discomfort and grief are inevitable, life is not so frightening and we are freer to create intimate relationships.

We need to open ourselves to the inevitable daily losses of living, so we can open ourselves to love. We say hello and goodbye. We feel connected one moment, and disconnected the next. A tender sexual moment will never be exactly the same. Every breath we takes connects us to life, then passes, before a new breath fills us. We move through new developmental and spiritual stages daily, weekly.

Impermanence is a central concept in Buddhism. Nothing stays the same, not ideas, thoughts, perception, and certainly not other people. The flowers on the dining room table will wilt in a few days, the clouds will never be the same again. Sadness and joy exist side by side. One the spiritual path we allow these things to be, observing them and watching them pass, just like a breeze. Don't expect the person you fall in love with to stay the same. Like breathing air, the spiritual path is fluid, ungraspable, undefinable, elusive. We stop the flow the moment we try to hold onto something. ...

You partner with someone as they are at this moment. The vitality can remain if you adventure forth, side by side, savoring the moment to moment shifts and changes that inevitably arise as you both stay open to the journey. We need to look at each other anew every day, with clear eyes and an open mind so we see the person of today, not an image from the past.

If the Buddha Dated, A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path