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Surviving an influenza pandemic
9 February 2006

The latest fact sheet to be added to this site is on "Preparing for the bird flu". The importance of being prepared to survive at home for at least a fortnight without being able to visit a supermarket cannot be overemphasised. Influenza pandemics have occurred frequently throughout history and most experts agree that the next one could occur at any time, confining to their homes all but people still well and involved in essential services.

In a recent lecture to a Christchurch audience entitled "How did Christchurch cope in the 1918 influenza pandemic?", historian Professor Geoffrey Rice, author of "Black November: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand" (Canterbury University Press, 2005), emphasised getting to know your neighbours as an important survival strategy.

Although the medical response would be more prompt and effective than it was in 1918, Professor Rice said he still felt that a lot of things would break down in a really serious outbreak and "the front line" would be in our homes and in our immediate neighbourhoods.

Professor Rice urged people to get to know their neighbours and make sure they had the names and phone numbers of the people who live close to them. With medical facilities unable to cope, Professor Rice suggested people feeling feverish and dizzy should phone someone and tell them they were ill before passing out.

Realistically our neighbours could be the only ones able to assist us in a major emergency such as an influenza pandemic, says Patrick Creasey, Christchurch Neighbourhood Support Co-ordinator. At a very minimum, in addition to food supplies, everyone should heed Professor Rice's advice and be part of a telephone network with their neighbours. Better still, says Patrick, form a Neighbourhood Support Group in your neighbourhood and get the full benefits of access to information to crime prevention and community safety advice as well as preparing to deal with emergencies and natural disasters.

For further information on Neighbourhood Support click here or contact your local Neighbourhood Support District Representative on the Contacts page or email the Secretary.

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