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Pandemics are scary things… our bodies being invaded by something too small to see, yet powerful enough to kill us. Unlike other invaders, we have no way of knowing that they are there or that they are attacking us, up until they’ve already caused disease in our bodies. By then, it might already be too late. There have been pandemics in the past which were so bad, that people went to bed seemingly healthy, yet died before morning came.
We literally live in risk of pandemic all the time. This isn’t fear mongering; it’s the truth. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), one of the world’s top three medical organizations, the flu infects an average of 61,000 people die each year from the flu. Yet compared to the millions who contract the flu annually, the percentages are surprisingly low.
Other diseases are much more deadly, especially viral diseases. While medical science has had great success developing antibiotics like penicillin (which you can actually make at home) which can fight bacterial disease, they have had zero success in developing antiviral medicines. That means that if you become infected by Ebola, the new Coronavirus, or even the flu, the only thing that doctors can do is treat the symptoms; it’s up to your body to defeat the disease on its own.
That’s why vaccines are so important. They give our bodies an opportunity to develop the necessary antibodies by fighting against a less virulent version of the virus. Then, if we are ever attacked by the real thing, our bodies are ready to fight it, greatly increasing our chances of survival.
But what if no vaccine exists? That’s the case for both Ebola and the coronavirus; and while there are vaccines for the flu, there are many strains of flu, which are always changing. Medical experts take an educated guess as to what strains will be prevalent in any given year and the vaccines for the top three or four go into that year’s flu shot. But they may not be right, and a vaccine that works for one subtype doesn’t necessarily work for others.
Obviously, the best thing to do is avoid getting infected by any pandemic, viral or bacterial. But how do you do that? What do you need to have, in order to keep from contracting whatever disease is going around?
Basic Items You Need to Survive a Pandemic
Most disease can be avoided, if you take a few basic precautions. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff deal with diseases all the time and manage to protect themselves from getting infected. So it only makes sense that if we do what they do, we’ll be all right too.
Medical Face Masks
All diseases are caused by microscopic pathogens; bacteria, viruses and protozoa. These need to get inside your body, in order to infect you. They really can’t do much to you, as long as they are on your skin, as the skin works to repel them, keeping them out of your body. In most cases, these pathogens get into the body through natural body openings, like the eyes, nose and mouth. They can also get in through cuts and contusions, which is why proper cleaning and bandaging of injuries is so important.
There are different ways in which these microscopic organisms pass from one person to another, but the most common, and most deadly, is via aerosol. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets of mucus or saliva are expelled, filled with those pathogens. All we have to do is be close enough (say within six feet) and breathe them in to get infected. Medical masks filter those droplets out, protecting us from getting infected in that way.
In a pinch, you can use the kind of masks that are used for dust protection. Those are often much easier to come by, as you can buy them at hardware stores and lumberyards. Spray them lightly with disinfectant and they’ll work as good as the medical ones.
Of course, those medical masks don’t protect your eyes. For that, you need to wear goggles. I’m sure you know the kind I’m talking about, the ugly ones we used to wear in chemistry class. They may not be attractive, but they’ll keep those aerosol droplets away from your eyes. Just be sure to disinfect them after use, before you take off your rubber gloves, so that you don’t pick up any pathogens the next time you pick them up.
Did I say “rubber gloves?” I guess I did. Probably the dirtiest part of our bodies, or at least our skin, is our hands. I’m not talking about having mud on them, I’m talking about biologically dirty. In other words, covered with bacteria, viruses and protozoa. We can’t see them, but they are there. most are rather benign, but not in the case of a pandemic.
The reason we wear rubber gloves is to keep those pathogens off of our hands. But they do something else, at the same time. They keep our hands off our food and out of our mouths. You see, viruses on the hands can’t hurt you; at least, not until you pick up your sandwich or hamburger and take a bite. When you do that, you give them direct access to your mouth, helping to infect yourself.
If you’re trying to protect yourself from pandemics, you’d better count on going through a lot of rubber gloves. Every time you come away from a potentially infectious situation, you’ll want to take those gloves off and replace them. As you take them off, do so by turning them inside-out. That way, anything that is on the surface is trapped inside, where it can’t infect you or anyone else. Dispose of immediately.
Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer
Once you take the gloves off, it’s time to clean your hands. That’s what the antibacterial hand sanitizer comes in. For that matter, you should use it before eating as well. Hand soap often contains alcohol or chlorine, both of which are uniformly fatal to those microscopic pathogens we’re trying to stop. On top of this, soaps that are labeled “antibacterial” contain additional bacteria killers, such as triclosan or triclocarban.
There have been some reports, in recent times, saying that you’re not any better off using these antibacterial hand cleaners, than you are using soap. Personally, I’d rather not take any chances. If I was really concerned, I’d dip my hands in a bucket full of alcohol, just to be sure.
While we’re mostly concerned about those aerosol droplets landing on us, we should also pay attention to where else they might land. Even though the droplets dry, bacteria and viruses they contain can survive on those surfaces for a while. Then when people touch them, they can pick up the disease.
The solution to this risk is to keep everything clean, using disinfectant cleaners, especially those surfaces which could have become contaminate by an infected person. There’s no such thing as too much cleanliness, when we’re trying to avoid a pandemic.
Chlorine bleach is one of the best disinfectants going, able to kill all sorts of microscopic pathogens. It also doubles for purifying water. Make sure you have plenty on hand, even if you do have the disinfectant wipes.
If a Pandemic or Virus Outbreak Turns Deadly, You’ll Want These Items:
Modern medical science is able to identify, isolate and treat patients with pandemic diseases quite well. But what if they can’t? What if the pandemic reaches a point where society starts to break down? How do we protect ourselves in that situation, especially if we have to go out in public for some reason?
In a situation where a pandemic has caused a large number of deaths, and perhaps offices, schools and shops are mostly closed for fear of transmission, you’ll want access to the following items in order to reduce your exposure as much as possible. If you anticipate a situation where society halts due to a infectious disease (where everyday life is significantly disrupted) then you should be looking to buy the items listed here:
Doctors and other medical staff use a containment suit, called a Racal Suit, when treating people with highly deadly diseases, like Ebola. These suits are over $1,000 each, so it’s not really the kind of thing that the average person will want to invest in. But you can do just about as good with these Hazmat suits. These Hazmat suits are used by the US Military as well as fire departments and hospitals and are the best high quality option for those of us who want great protection without having to spend 4 figures.
After you’ve gotten a hazmat suit, you want to make sure that all seams, between suit parts and from the suit to gloves and shoe protectors are well taped, leaving no cracks for the pathogens to get through.
You’ll want to use at least two layers of gloves, when wearing these suits. The inner layer is there to protect you and the outer is to protect the inner layer. That way, if anything happens to the outer glove, you can replace it, without breaking the airtight integrity of your suit.
It’s also important that you understand how to put on and take off these suits. There are specific procedures you need to follow in order to not be at risk from the contaminants that you are trying to protect yourself against. Read about donning and doffing so you don’t expose yourself or your loved ones to any danger after using your Hazmat suit.
You also want shoe protects to go along with your hazmat suit – these are designed to slip over your shoes or boots, providing additional protection. These make it possible to ensure full coverage from the suit. But you’ll want to use multiple layers; they’re thin and your shoes will wear through the soles quickly. So just to be safe, in critical situations you may want to wear two of these.
Finish out your protective suit with a quality gas mask. I’m not talking about a particulate mask here, like a P100 respirator, I’m talking an actual gas mask… Preferably one that covers the eyes as well. The P100 standard is for particles 0.3 microns or larger – and it works decently as ad-hoc protection against infectious diseases. But the 0.3 microns standard doesn’t guarantee anything – it offers protection, but not full protection. Bacteria can be as small as 0.2 microns, and viruses even smaller. However, actual gas masks will remove bacteria and viruses from the air, if you have the right sort of filter in them.
Be sure to buy gas masks with replaceable filters. Most today use 40 mm screw-in filters and have connections for two. That allows you to run on one filter, while changing the other. Just make sure that you aren’t trying to use expired filters; they do have an expiration date on them and that date is important.
We recommend these gas masks because they’re used by military forces and law enforcement in multiple countries, so you know they are the real deal.
Make sure you also buy the filters (which are discounted if you buy the mas from Mira Safety). If you have a high quality gas mask and unexpired filters, you have full protection from almost all infectious diseases (at least protection from breathing them in). You’ll also have protection against a whole host of potential threats (chemical weapons, nuclear fallout, etc), so they’re a good investment regardless.
All of this protective gear will do wonders to protect you, while you are away from home. But what do you do when you get back home (side note: make sure you actually make it home with a get home bag)? How do you get into your house, without bringing disease along with you?
That’s where a decontamination area comes in, probably on your back porch or patio. Start the process by cleaning off any mud or other substances from the suit, by spraying it with water. Then spray the entire outside of the suit with a strong disinfectant. If you don’t have anything else to use, use a 10% solution of chlorine bleach. You can apply this with a standard garden sprayer. Allow it to sit a few minutes, then spray it off with water again. Take the suit off, turning it inside out in the process.
One more point about that suit. They are designed to be disposable, but you may not have the luxury of having enough of them on-hand to throw them out. But if you disinfect it thoroughly, then leave it outside in the sunlight, where the ultraviolet rays can kill any viruses on the surface, you can use it over and over again.
Speaking of ultraviolet light; it’s a good idea to have some ultraviolet lights on hand, as well as some plastic sheeting and duct tape. With this, you can construct sort of an airlock on the inside of your home’s door. That way, after decontamination and removal of the suit, you can pass through this airlock, lingering to allow the ultraviolet light to kill any viruses that somehow survived and are still on your skin or your clothing.
A Couple of Extras to Consider
Of course, the best thing to do is avoid anyone who is contaminated altogether. The problem is, you don’t know if someone is infected, until they start showing symptoms; and in most cases, those symptoms don’t look much different than the early stages of the flu. So how do you protect yourself? About the best possible thing you can do is to isolate yourself and wait the pandemic out.
If you really want to protect yourself, then make up some sort of official “quarantine” sign and plaster it all over the outside of your home. About the only people who would dare knock on your door then, will be people from the CDC or WHO (World Health Organization). It may not be quite legitimate, but hey, we’re talking survival here.
That Cabin in the Woods
Of course, the absolute best thing to do in this sort of situation is to bug out; but only if you have someplace to go, where you will be away from other people. This is where that cabin the woods you’ve always wanted comes in handy. Bacteria and viruses can’t survive for long, out in the open. So, unless you buy that cabin in the middle of Central Park, in New York City, it’s unlikely that whatever bacteria or viruses are causing the pandemic will have a chance at finding you.