Thinking About Pandemics

With Ebola all over the news these days, worries about pandemic are raising their ugly heads, despite the CDC’s assurance that the risk of spread in the US is low. Still, Ebola isn’t the only bug that can spread like wildfire. In 1918, the Spanish flu killed approximately 50 million people. Interestingly, the Spanish flu was a variation of the H1N1 virus, which reached pandemic status in 2009 when, according to the CDC, it infected between 43 and 89 million people (including me), hospitalized between 195 and 403 thousand, and killed somewhere between 14 and 18 thousand. But it doesn’t take a pandemic for a flu to be deadly. Globally, tens of thousands (often hundreds of thousands) of people die from the flu every year.

The precautions for avoiding the flu are well known:

Flu Prevention

But what happens when a virus gets really out of control–or its an especially nasty bug? Belize has already implemented a travel ban for people who live in or have visited any of the Ebola-affected West African countries, and refused to allow a cruise ship carrying a Dallas hospital worker to dock, sending it back to the US.

There may come a point, either with Ebola (highly unlikely at this point), or with a particularly virulent strain of influenza (much more likely), when people in the affected areas may be asked to shelter in place, which basically means, stay in your homes and don’t go out for anything.

In order to do that successfully, you will need to prepare:

  • Have enough food and water for the duration, and since there’s no real way to know how long that might be, it’s best to store enough supplies for at least a month
  • You’ll also need stores of other essentials like toilet paper, toothpaste, tampons, and most importantly, medications; and don’t lull yourself into thinking you can just order from Amazon or your online pharmacy–you can, but no one will be able to deliver them
  • And don’t forget your pets, they’ll need to eat, go to the bathroom, and continue to take any essential meds, too
  • If you work in an office, look into ways you can work from home–loss of income during a lock-down is a very real threat that could have devastating effects
  • If you live in a place that experiences harsh winter weather and/or storms, you’ll want to prepare for that, too
  • You will also need a strategy to keep from going stir-crazy trapped in the house with your family, roommates, or heaven forbid, by yourself–luckily The Survival Mom, who is a fantastic source for all things prep, posted Shelter in Place Without Going Crazy–the first in a series to help you keep your sanity while stuck at home

The other thing to keep in mind, especially if you live alone, is that this advice doesn’t just help you survive a pandemic or any other disaster that requires sheltering in place. It can also make a huge difference if you get sick. Even with something as simple as a bad cold, it helps to have stores of broth, crackers, medicines, tea, etc. If you tend to get the flu every year, your minimum prep should include everything you need for however long you usually stay sick or the standard estimated days until full recovery, whichever is longer (standard for colds or flu is usually 4-14 days). And while you’re at it, a stockpile of movies or a streaming subscription probably wouldn’t hurt.