“What do you think is the most likely serious “disaster” to occur?”
To that, I answer without hesitation: Pandemic.
While flu is the most likely source of the next pandemic we face in the United States, recent concerns about the Ebola virus… its unprecedented outbreak in some African countries, fears that it is spreading to other countries, and now its introduction to the US by way of infected health care workers brought to Georgia for treatment… have gotten people talking about the possibility of another pandemic here in the United States.
A Few Pandemic Facts:
- Illnesses and diseases are not considered pandemics if they “only” sicken or kill a lot of people. To qualify as a pandemic, the illness must be contagious. (This explains why heart disease and cancer, though they kill millions every year, are not considered pandemics.)
- An epidemic is a contagious illness that affects more people than average but is contained in one geographic area. A pandemic is one that crosses borders and stretches around the globe.
- One of the earliest recorded pandemics was the Plague of Athens in 430BC.
- The “Black Death” in the 14th Century killed more than 75 million people.
- The US has been affected by three major pandemics/epidemics since the early 1900s. The “Spanish Flu” of 1918-1919 killed almost 700,000 people in the United States and more than 20 million worldwide. Schools and businesses were shut down, and essential services were shut down because of ill workers. In 1952 an outbreak of Polio affected almost 60,000 people, killing more than 3,000. Whole cities were quarantined to help stop the spread. The Asian Flu (similar to the bird flu and swine flu) hit the US in 1957. Thanks to a quickly produced vaccine, the end came within months, but not before killing nearly 70,000 Americans.
Our world is “ripe” for another pandemic for several reasons:
- We are a mobile world. In 2012, airlines carried more than 800 million passengers worldwide. The same year, Americans alone took more than 10 billion rides on public transportation. Think of how many people you come in contact with each day at work, school, grocery store, movies, restaurants… then think of how many people they come in contact with, and how many things you touch that others have touched, and so on. Being aware and practicing good hygiene will only go so far. Unless you become a recluse with zero contact with anyone else, you can’t protect yourself 100%.
- Widespread antimicrobial medication overuse has increased the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria which can lead to flus and other illnesses that have no available treatment.
- There have been “a string of public-safety scares” at CDC and FDA labs studying anthrax, smallpox, and lab-created flu hybrids. There is a lot of information being disseminated that there is little to no risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States, but many people are still concerned.
- Another threat we currently face: illnesses and disease brought in by illegal immigrants. Some are considered “minor” like chicken pox, scabies, or lice. They are also bringing tuberculosis (TB), MRSA and other staph infections, and a variety of much more serious viruses. These are all coming across our southern border in record numbers. It’s not just the border states that are affected. The government is transporting the sick and unvaccinated to myriad locations, potentially speeding up the process of spreading disease across the country.
- While the exposure to disease by illegal immigrants coming into this country is unintentional, many illnesses have been weaponized for specific intent to harm an enemy.
So what CAN you do to prepare for a pandemic? Here’s your checklist:
1. Visit the “Get Pandemic Ready” website. This is the number one online source of information about pandemic preparedness. I recommend starting on the FAQ page and then reading and downloading some or all of the files.
2. Stock up on food and supplies. My preparedness plan for pandemic is simple. I want to have the ability to close my doors and not go into public places for up to six months. (Four to six months is how long the experts believe it will take to create and deliver a vaccine to the public.) All I need is to have enough food and supplies (hygiene, paper products, etc) for my family and pets for that long. It isn’t complicated, but it does require some storage space! If you don’t have that much in your stock now, decide how much you are comfortable storing and start increasing as quickly as your budget will allow.
3. Stock up on medication and hospital supplies for your family. A great plan is to have a small bin for each person in your household. It can be customized with pain relievers and other cold and flu medications, tissues, throat lozenges, eye drops, masks and gloves that are appropriate for each person (children’s sizes and doses for the kids, etc.) If illness strikes your home, and you need to have a mini-quarantine, these bins will make caretaking for each person a little bit easier and help prevent cross-contamination. Another benefit of the bins is that if you or a family member gets a run-of-the-mill illness, there will be no need to head to the store for medication and supplies. You’ll be ready!
4. Understand how to create and maintain a “sick room” in your home.
5. Remind yourself and your family members about good hygiene and hand washing practices, but just as important, STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE!. Your skin is a strong enough barrier to repel most illnesses. What actually makes you sick is when you touch your face (specifically your nose and mouth) with your contaminated hands. Be conscious of how many times you touch your face. It happens a lot more often than you might think!
6. Consider what vaccinations you and your family members will receive. Vaccinations are a hot topic in our country right now and a whole separate discussion to have. Weigh the risks and the benefits and decide what is the best balance of protection for you and your community.
A pandemic can occur anytime, and without warning. It doesn’t care if the economy is good or bad, if we are in war or peace time, or where we live. It doesn’t discriminate if we are wealthy or poor, male or female, or what color skin we have. The economy may never crash, there may never be an EMP or asteroid, and you might never face a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, but there WILL be another pandemic. You and your family need to be prepared for its arrival.
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