In the early 20th century, an influenza epidemic killed millions and infected more than a quarter of the global population. Today, influenza epidemics tend to be far less deadly, but there are no guarantees. The flu evolves, and it is possible that one day a deadlier version will sweep across the globe.
The good news is that as a society we’re much more prepared to handle such an epidemic than we were in 1919. The bad news, however, is that we’re not as prepared as you’d like to think as the worldwide medical industry would not be able to mobilize fast enough and efficiently enough to stop it. Therefore, there would be more patients than hospital capacity, especially in areas with a high population density. That would force many families to care for their own, which would lead to deaths and extend the life of the epidemic. This would be a worldwide natural disaster.
In a study conducted by MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD) found that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) would be the key component to combating a global flu epidemic.
NPI is technical jargon for a much simpler concept: If regular people know how to prevent the spread of the flu, they can do so in their homes and workplaces. If everyone took the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the flu, an epidemic, such as the one that occurred in 1919, couldn’t happen ever again. Furthermore, the standard flu kills more than 30,000 people each year in the US alone. If we all applied the techniques outlined by the ESD, we could have a significant effect on the number of casualties immediately.
Fighting the Flu
Since the appearance of devastating flu strains, such as the bird flu or H5N1, scientists all over the world have researched ways for the average person to combat the flu. In order to construct its NPI outline, the ESD examined the best of these studies and compared the effectiveness of the techniques. The flu virus spreads when the infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes or talks. All of these actions release particles into the air, and these particles contain the virus. When a non-infected person breathes these particles in, they’re then susceptible to the infection. To prevent that transmission, the ESD recommended the following steps:
Get a flu shot
Control both humidity and temperature. High humidity and temperature, although uncomfortable, can disable and even kill the flu outright, which is important when someone in the home is already sick.
Wash hands thoroughly when in contact with someone with the flu. Scrub with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds.
Wear a mask. While there is no evidence that masks block airborne viruses, masks do make it difficult to touch the nose and mouth, which is the most common cause of infection.
The most important step you can take is HEPA filtration. HEPA is a vital tool in preventing the spread of airborne viral and bacterial organisms. In homes where the flu virus is not established, HEPA filters can prevent it from ever claiming a foothold. In homes where someone is sick, HEPA can help that person recover without infecting everyone else who lives in the home. HEPA filtration is so effective that hospitals and military installations throughout the world use it. In fact, it is so successful in combating the flu that hospitals in Hong Kong used it during the outbreak of the deadly SARS virus.
Minimizing the Risk of Infection
Contact with the infected is how the infection spreads, so it comes as little surprise that the ESD found that the infected in turn infect at a rate directly correlated to the number of people they meet during that period. If you have the flu, avoid contact with others. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. If you don’t have the flu, avoid contact with those that do. If you have someone in the house that is sick, use a HEPA air filter and take the necessary steps to maintain cleanliness. The conclusion in the paper published by MIT’s ESD is that simple hygiene and environmental protection, such as HEPA air filtration, are the most effective steps that we can take. The steps available to governments and world health organizations can cost billions of dollars and countless man-hours. The more effective steps are the ones available to us individually, and they cost almost nothing at all in comparison.
The value of HEPA air purifiers goes far beyond flu prevention. Indoor air pollution is a significant health concern. HEPA removes 99.97 percent of all particulates down to 0.3 microns in size, including dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, bacteria and viruses, which helps ensure optimal indoor air quality. HEPA is so effective that in many cases it provides complete relief indoors to severe asthma and allergy sufferers. Ensure optimal indoor health for your family. Purchase a portable HEPA air purifier.
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