Health emergencies can vary in size from an outbreak of food poisoning at a community event to a pandemic illness. Sometimes health emergencies can be scary; you can’t see, touch or smell diseases the same way that you can smell the smoke from a wildfire or see the flood waters rising. Although thinking about these things can be upsetting, it’s important to learn how to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible.
Understanding the Terminology (from the World Health Organization):
Epidemic - A group of cases of a specific disease or illness clearly in excess of what one would normally expect in a particular geographic area.
Outbreak - a sudden start or increase of fighting or disease.
Pandemic - the worldwide spread of a new disease.
Community Mitigation/Social Distancing
If a lot of people are sick, public health officials may implement something called “community mitigation strategies.” Community mitigation strategies (also called social distancing) are ways that members of the community can work together to limit the spread of disease until a vaccine or a cure is available. This can be done in a number of ways:
- Closing schools, daycares and after-school programs;
- Cancelling public gatherings;
- Asking businesses to have workers work from home (telecommuting); or
- Asking businesses to increase their leave policies.
In addition, public health officials may ask that people to follow isolation and quarantine guidelines. Isolation is when a person who is sick is asked to stay home for a specified period of time. This helps to ensure that the person doesn’t infect others with the disease. Quarantine is when people who may have been exposed to the disease are asked to stay home for a specified period of time. In some cases, a person can spread an illness before they even know they are sick.
In order for community mitigation strategies to work, community members must follow the instructions from Public Health Officials. Although some of these measures may seem disruptive, it’s important for everyone’s safety!
Oregon Health Authority
Center for Disease Control and Prevention