Much is said about the demise of the human race. Asteroids, total failure of the electrical grid, a new super disease or even a total economic collapse. Some or all of these may be the trigger, but I really think that at the end of the day, whatever the trigger is, the final cause will be a virus.
These microscopic invaders are the epitome of adaptability. They are able to mutate at the drop of a hat, they cannot be wiped out by antibiotics…even if there were any left that still worked properly, and they reside in all areas of the globe.
In 2006 another virus reared its ugly little head. Rhinovirus C is very similar to the known rhinoviruses A and B. These germs are responsible for the common cold. The difference with the C strain is that it doesn’t culture easily, and if you can’t culture it, you can’t find a cure for it.
Rhinovirus C is believed to be responsible for up to half of all childhood colds and is a serious complicating factor for respiratory conditions such as asthma. Together with rhinoviruses A and B, the recently discovered virus is responsible for millions of illnesses yearly at an estimated annual cost of more than $40 billion in the United States alone. (source)
It is the resistance and mutational ability that makes viruses almost impossible to deal with on a long term basis. You find something that works today. but next week it possibly won’t and the next year it almost definitely won’t. This is the nature of viruses. They are survival experts.
The only way to not get a contagious virus is to not mix with anyone who may have one, and this of course is impossible with the lives the vast majority of people lead.
So, how can you increase your chances of survival during an epidemic (localized disease outbreak) or even a pandemic (global disease outbreak) of a viral disease?
Normally governments will issue warnings or alerts if a disease outbreak is occurring or expected to occur. This starts with advisories. For example they may recommend that you avoid large gatherings of people such as cinemas or sporting events.
Next they may actually cancel sporting events to reduce the risk of contamination. Large institutions such as college campuses and schools will close.
Buildings open to the public will go next. Government offices, libraries and sports and leisure centres will close their doors. In dire circumstances even churches would be instructed to lock their doors.
Airlines MAY chose to cancel flights voluntarily but where money is at stake it’s more likely the government will prevent flights coming into, or leaving an infected area.
The final restriction the government can impose is a curfew. Individuals will be prevented from moving around freely outside of their homes in order to limit the spread of disease.
There’s a couple of things you need to remember when considering these restrictions. They are:
Money and integrity.
Any form of shutdown costs money. Companies and governments will lose billions by shutting down the country, or even part of it. You have to consider that with the economic climate as it is, both individual companies, especially large ones such as airlines, and/or the government may not make the call quickly enough. Losing so much revenue is not usually in their remit, and wiping out half the population of a given area, be it a county or a state may be considered no more than collateral damage. There’s a distinct possibility that by the time the call is made a circulating virus could be so widespread that it’s unstoppable.
So what’s the answer?
Well, planning for a pandemic is on most peoples radar these days. What may not be is what to do before it is declared a national emergency. This is a situation where there are so many variables it’s impossible to give more than general advice.
Most diseases begin with a feeling of general malaise. Sore throats, headache, and high temperatures could be the start of a thousand and one conditions including the potential pandemic disease you are trying so hard to avoid. Here are a few things you need to think about.
You need to consider how hygienic you are: We all like to think we are hygienically clean, and that our homes are safe. Ordinarily a certain amount of grime is acceptable in a busy family home, nobody wants to feel like they live in a clinic. You should consider this though. The average virus can survive on a soft surface for 24 hours and on a hard surface for up to 72 hours. Washing your hands often is a must to prevent contamination. Common surfaces that spread viruses are door handles, TV remote controls, keyboards, buttons and grab rails in lifts and elevators, and mobile phones. Everyone should be covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, preferably with a disposable tissue though using the crook of your arm is far preferable to doing nothing. The tissue should be disposed of immediately and then your hands should get washed. Carry baby wipes when you are out and about to wipe your hands after pushing lift/elevator buttons etc.
You should be considering what you are seeing and hearing: Mainstream media is brilliant at dropping a one liner in amongst other reports. It’s called burying bad news. If you hear of a cluster of illness take note. Even if it is outside of your area, clusters of viral illnesses are an indicator that something may well be going on. Note where it is in relation to you and check back later for developments regarding the spread and severity of the condition.
You should be considering where you live: The more people in your area the higher the chance of infection. You may decide that calling the school and pulling your child out for a few days is a wise precaution.
You should be considering where you work: Working in certain environments is more likely to result in infection. Packed cubicle style offices, schools and hospitals are more likely to result in infection than for example, working as a gardener.
You should be considering the time of year: Is it winter? Is it the usual time you would see coughs, colds and flu in your area? People getting sick ‘out of season’ could be an indicator that a mutation has occurred as happened with nH1N1 (swine flu).
You should be considering who you allow into your home: Anyone coming into your home has to be considered a potential source of disease. Consider where they are travelling from and the areas they pass through en route.
You should be considering staying away from anyone who is unwell: This sounds so obvious, but you would be surprised how many people will still consider visiting elderly relatives in retirement/care homes or relatives who are in the hospital.
You should be considering if wearing a facemask outside is feasible: Believe it or not there is a right and a wrong way to use a facemask, and most people get it wrong. If you don’t use it correctly you might as well not wear it. The mask should fit snugly over your nose and across your chin. Once the mask becomes damp it is losing efficiency both in protecting you from other peoples germs and protecting them from yours. If the mask becomes wet or soiled it should be changed immediately.
If you are speaking to someone who is wearing a facemask insist they stand square onto you, looking directly at you as they speak. They should breathe, (and cough and sneeze) directly into the mask. By turning their head, as social convention dictates we do, the germs will shoot out of the gaps at the end of the mask and be in your airways within a second or two.
You should be considering self-imposed isolation/social distancing: You should have a pre-determined idea of how bad a situation will be before you and your family go into lockdown. This is not something you want to be thinking about at the time of a disease outbreak. You should be considering your situation now and be making plans accordingly. All family members old enough to understand should be kept in the loop so they understand the importance of not going out once the decision has been made.
You should be considering how you will care for a sickened family member: Where will you nurse them? Who will nurse them? How will you prevent their carer becoming sick themselves? Do you have the materials to set up an isolation area within the home or will you convert the garden shed? If the person dies how will you dispose of the body?
You should be considering the wider implications of a disease outbreak: In a major outbreak many workers who would normally be working, tending the power plant, or water treatment plant, or their patients at the hospital will either be sick themselves or will have decided to stay home with their families. Services will be affected in any major outbreak, and you should anticipate this and discuss it as a family.
Children may not be able to easily equate a flu pandemic with the toilet no longer flushing.
We all know the importance of having a stockpile of food, water and everything else we need, but in the case of infectious disease this is doubly important. When we talk about collapse events, the danger of going away from your home usually centres around others taking what you have. In the early stages of a pandemic it’s what they GIVE you that you should be worrying about.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.