Neighbour Hood Support

Preparing for the Bird Flu

Health experts and governments around the world are worried that the flu virus H5N1 affecting birds (avian influenza or bird flu) could change into a virus that affects people. If this happens, and the new virus enters New Zealand, many of us could become very sick.

When a new flu virus infects many people around the world, it is called an influenza pandemic.

Here are a few simple things you can do now to prepare for a pandemic.


Have a plan

You and your family may have to stay at home for several weeks during a pandemic. Talk to your family, friends and neighbours about their plans. People in Neighbourhood Support groups may well be the best equipped to deal with and survive a pandemic. Doctors and nurses will be affected by the virus and likely be in short supply. Hospitals could be overflowing. Neighbours checking on one another would be a very important survival strategy.


  • Your plan needs to include surviving without being able to go to the supermarket and who could help you with food and supplies if you and your family are ill. One way of doing this is by having a telephone network for you and your neighbours. If you do not feel you know your neighbours well enough to ask for this support there is time to develop the relationship now by starting a Neighbourhood Support Group.


  • Develop some strategies for helping each other keep in touch during the pandemic. Your neighbours may need your help if they are unwell.


  • Be prepared to stay home if you are unwell. Avoid visiting others who are sick or having others visit you.


  • Have the phone numbers for your family doctor/ pharmacist/ neighbours in a prominent place (e.g., the fridge door).


  • Think about an expanded emergency supplies kit. You can find a list of basic emergency kit contents on the inside back cover of the Yellow Pages. Or you could check the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management website on What To Do in a disaster.

Build up your emergency supplies kit


  • Have a supply of food and drinks to last for at least a fortnight. Choose non-perishable foods like canned foods, soup sachets and dried foods. Keep your freezer stocked with bread etc.


  • Have extra paracetamol for all the family to help relieve aches and pains, and high temperatures. Remember not to give aspirin to children under 12. If you have prescription medicines (e.g., for blood pressure), don't wait until you run out to get more. Consider putting some in your emergency supplies kit.


  • Have tissues and plastic bags – supermarket bags are good – to put the used tissues into.


  • Have a supply of disposable gloves that you throw away after each use.


  • You might want to include some standard surgical masks from a pharmacy or the sort you get in a hardware store to protect yourself when sanding or using solvents. Clear advice on how best to use any masks safely and appropriately will be given at the beginning of a pandemic. For example you might be advised to wear a mask if you get sick at work and need to travel home via public places. Masks should only be worn for short periods. They must be changed if they get wet from sneezing or coughing.


  • Think about things to do if you and your family have to stay home for a couple of weeks (e.g., books, games and videos).

Brush up on hygiene


  • Washing and drying your hands properly is one of the best ways of protecting yourself against the spread of germs. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with either soap or an alcohol-based rub. Drying well is just as important.


  • The important times for washing and drying hands are before preparing food and eating, and after coughing or sneezing, blowing noses, wiping children's noses, visiting the toilet or looking after sick people.


  • Keep your coughs and sneezes covered. Use tissues, and put them straight into a covered, lined rubbish bin.


  • Try to stay a metre away from sick people to reduce the spread of illnesses.

Consider a flu jab


  • Although it won't protect against new influenza viruses that could cause a future pandemic, ask your doctor to vaccinate you against the flu each year. Because the influenza virus changes frequently, you need to get vaccinated every year to stay immune.


  • Vaccination is free for people aged 65 years and over, and adults and children with certain long-term (chronic) conditions. Your doctor will know if you are eligible for a free vaccination.

If you work from home or run your own business


  • You need to think about how to keep your business running. You will find some suggestions on how to do this in the Business Continuity Planning Guide on the Ministry of Economic Development internet site.


  • You may want to talk to your insurance provider about your cover.

More information on influenza and planning for an influenza pandemic

is available on the Ministry of Health internet site.




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