What Bellingen can do to prepare for a possible pandemic

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Bellinger Valley community is accustomed to preparing for natural disasters such as floods and, more recently, bushfires. It is becoming increasingly likely that the coronavirus (Covid-19) will spread throughout Australia as a pandemic. It's now time for our community to start preparing for this also.

Based on experiences overseas it is likely that most people who catch the coronavirus will have fairly mild symptoms, much like a bad cold. However, they will still require a period of isolation at home which may be for several weeks. The elderly and infirm may develop more severe symptoms requiring hospitalisation.

This has a flow-on effect for our whole community. How will I do my grocery shopping if I can't go to town? Who will do my job if I'm sick at home for three weeks? How will I get my medicines? What if the schools close?

We have a window of opportunity now to start making some practical preparations, even though this effort may be wasted if a severe pandemic doesn't happen.

Here is a list of what will probably happen and suggestions regarding what we can do to prepare

The coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, often before the infected person shows any symptoms:

  • Get into the habit of washing hands or using hand sanitiser regularly, especially before meals and snacks (this is easier than wearing a facemask!)
  • Avoid touching your face, which greatly reduces the risk of you catching the virus
  • Replace handshakes with elbow-bumps (the "Ebola Handshake")

If you have asthma, emphysema or other lung disease, coronavirus infection will make it worse:

  • See your GP to ensure your management plan is up to date
  • Check that you have enough of your puffers (preventers and relievers) at home
  • If you are a smoker, consider quitting NOW
  • Get influenza vaccination when available

There may be supply chain disruptions, making it harder to get essentials like groceries, fuel and medicines:

  • Each week, purchase a few extra non-perishable items such as tinned food, toilet paper or pet food
  • Keep an extra one or two month's supply of your usual prescription medicine at home if possible (speak with your local pharmacy about how to arrange this)

If you catch the coronavirus you may need to spend two to three weeks in isolation at home until you recover:

  • Speak with your neighbours, social group and extended family now about planning to assist with meals, grocery delivery, or driving kids to/from school
  • You may need to care for sick family members at home, while trying to avoid infection yourself:
  • Have enough disposable tissues and hand wash at home
  • Discuss with employers and extended family about possible arrangements for this
  • Register with a local General Practice who may be able to give assistance

Multiple workplace absences:

  • Businesses can cross-train key staff as much as possible to cope with absences and to keep the business open, and maximise work from home

You can get reliable information about the coronavirus and stay up to date via the websites of NSW Health www.health.nsw.gov.au and the World Health Organisation www.who.int

This information prepared by Doctor Derek Bell & Doctor Olivia Bell.