With all the news lately of the very real threat of the coronavirus, I thought it was a good time to repost one of my “classic” posts on how to prepare for a national or global pandemic.
The word pandemic comes from the Greek pandemos meaning “pertaining to all people”. The Greek word pan means “all” and the Greek word demos means “people”. A pandemic is a disease outbreak of global proportions. It happens when a novel virus emerges among humans that causes serious illness and is easily human transmissible from person-to-person.
In modern times when health and disaster preparedness organizations use the word “pandemic” they are usually referring to a potentially virulent influenza pandemic. But flu is not the only possible infectious disease pandemic. In fact, since the very nature of pandemics are that they are caused by unfamiliar or “rogue” pathogens, a pandemic can take on the form of an infectious disease like nothing we have ever seen before.
Therefore despite what you think you may know about vaccines, the best way to prepare for a flu or any kind of infectious disease pandemic is to maintain a healthy immune system and practice good germ control techniques and habits.
There have been many pandemics throughout human history that have decimated world populations: plague, typhus, cholera – and yes influenza. However it is important to understand the difference between seasonal flu and pandemic flu. In the United States, for example, there is a flu season that begins every fall and ends every spring. The type of flu people get during this season is called seasonal flu.
Sometimes, a new type of flu virus may emerge to which the general public has no resistance. The lack of immunity enables the virus to spread very quickly and easily from person to person impacting communities around the world in a very short time, causing serious illness and death. This kind of flu is called pandemic flu. While not a flu per se, this is exactly what is going on with the coronavirus outbreak right now.
Preparing for a Pandemic
Preparing for a flu or other contagion pandemic echoes your preparedness for other natural disasters. You need to have your Home Emergency Preparedness Kit Ready as well as your Go Bag. Unlike with some of the other disasters, however, during a contagious disease outbreak, you may more likely want to hunker down and stay safe and secure in your own home, than consider evacuating and risking exposure. If you have prepared a “Survival Safe House” off the beaten path however – a pandemic may be a very good time to Bug Out for it. Either way, at home or in your Safe House, you need to be sure you have all of your food, water and other Shelter-in-Place supplies stocked, fresh, and ready – probably for at least 3 weeks or more.
- Be sure to have extra supplies of any prescription drugs you require and the basic nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, fluids with electrolytes, vitamins and immune boosting supplements, and first-aid items that might run short in a wave of pandemic flu.
- Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick, or what will be needed to care for them in your home.
- Volunteer with local groups to prepare and assist with emergency response.
- If you have children, make sure you have arranged for their daycare if their school closes in response to a pandemic.
During a Pandemic
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family during a Pandemic is to minimize you exposure to the contagion by practicing good infectious disease control techniques and hygiene habits.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious food, cut down or eliminate alcohol and tobacco use.
- Stockpile and take vitamins and supplements known to improve your immune system such as:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Amino Acids such as Lysine and Glycine
- Herbal and other Natural Supplements such as Echinacea, Turmeric Extract, Ginger, and Quercetin
Specific to the Coronavirus
Since the coronavirus is a new or “novel” virus, there is a lot we still do not know about it. The good news is, that so far, it seems that younger, generally healthy people have very little to fear from the virus. Here are some specific tips on how to protect yourself and your family corona based on what we do know so far. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but there are a few things you can do to keep your family healthy:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Look for one that is 60% or higher alcohol-based.
- Keep your kids away from others who are sick or keep them home if they are ill.
- Teach kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue (make sure to throw it away after each use!) or to cough and sneeze into their arm or elbow, not their hands.
- Clean and disinfect your home as usual using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes.
- Avoid touching your face; teach your children to do the same.
- Avoid travel to highly infected areas.
A note about facemasks: The CDC only recommends facemasks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, not for people who are healthy. Healthcare workers and anyone taking care of someone with COVID-19 should wear facemasks.