Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, as well as the sporadic cases that have been recorded in the United States. In this article, I’ll discuss an illness that is much more likely to be an epidemic in this country: Influenza. America sees about 200,000 cases of flu virus every year; the chances of dying from this common disease is much more than Ebola. I’ll focus on prevention today, and treatment in the near future.
This year, we’re expecting a relatively severe flu season, with the H1N1 strain (Swine Flu) predominant. In fact, Nurse Amy’s daughter and a number of other Florida State University students were infected in a mini-outbreak on campus this month.
As the person medically responsible for your family, it is your duty to do everything to prevent infectious disease from running rampant among your people. You will have limited medical supplies and medications to combat what could affect every member of your family, including yourself. Therefore, it makes sense to do everything in your power to prevent infectious disease in the first place. What are some strategies that can accomplish this goal?
Influenza strikes those that are not in the best condition, so do your best to be healthy BEFORE a disaster hits. Some of the basic steps are:
• Make good nutrition a part of your lifestyle
• Get enough sleep
• Be physically active to build your strength and stamina
• Boost your immune system with Vitamin C, D3, Zinc, and Selenium
• Dump bad habits like smoking, which makes your lungs weaker and more prone to infection. Statistics clearly show that influenza affects a higher percentage of smokers than non-smokers.
A high index of suspicion is your strongest weapon in your fight to keep your people healthy. Watch your members closely for signs of flu symptoms, such as:
• A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (slightly less than 38 degrees Centigrade) or higher A cough and/or sore throat
• Nasal Congestion
• Sore Throat
• Muscle Aches
• Fatigue and Malaise (queasiness)
• Nausea and vomiting (more often seen in children)
• Diarrhea (more often seen in children)
You may not be certain that what you’re observing is the flu or a common cold, which is caused by a different family of viruses. There are ways, however, to tell the difference. To help make the diagnosis, check out my article on “Colds vs. Flus” at the link below:
Highly contagious illnesses, like the flu, will devastate families or mutual assistance groups that fail to make efforts to build barriers against infection. The prepared medic will have already designated a sick room or tent in their retreat. This should be at one end of the house or camp. The room or tent should have a door or flap to separate the sick from the healthy but should have good ventilation. If you fail to designate this room now, you will, most likely, be evicting someone in your group from their living space when someone gets sick. This will be a sure recipe for discord at a time when everyone needs to pull together.
Every resource that provides information on avoiding the flu tells you to avoid sick people or crowded indoor locations in your area, otherwise known as “social distancing”. As the medic, however, this is not an option for you when a member of your family comes down with the flu.
Having a good supply of protective masks will be an important item to stockpile. Use simple earloop masks for the flu victims, and N95 respirator masks for the medic. N95 masks are inexpensive and will provide protection against 95% of microbes larger than 0.5 microns. This strategy will stop many viruses or bacteria from infecting the caregiver, not just influenza.
For more info about putting together an effective sick room, see my article/video linked below:
Although maintaining good hygiene will be a challenge in a disaster, simple strategies can be employed to make it tougher for viruses to do their damage in good times Or bad. Strict adherence to sanitation will give you the best opportunity to keep influenza from your doorstep.
1)Frequent hand washing is the cornerstone to preventing spread of influenza or, really, any other infection. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after patient contact. If water availability is an issue, make sure you have stockpiled lots of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Teaching your children to perform regular hand washing from an early age will keep them healthier throughout their lives. It should become a developmental milestone for every child, on the same level as toilet training.
2)Use disinfectants to clean all surfaces in the sick room or any counter surfaces that are used to prepare food. A good supply of disinfectant solution and wipes is part and parcel of your medical storage. Bleach diluted in water will fit the bill quite nicely.
3)Discourage family members from touching their face. You might think that this is easy, but you’d be surprised. Just observe any child for 30 minutes and count the times they touch their face. Hands to the face = viral particles into the body.
4)Don’t be embarrassed to wear face masks in the midst of a flu epidemic. Although rare in the U.S., wearing masks in this situation is considered a sign of social responsibility in Asia and other regions. Expect this to become the norm one day in America as well.
5)Teach your people to cough or sneeze with a tissue or cloth at all times. If none are available, sneeze into the upper arm rather than the hands. You’ll touch your face frequently with your hands, but not with your upper arm.
6)Dispose of tissues and disinfect other items used by sick patients. Don’t leave them around for others to touch. Bedding and utensils used by flu victims should be decontaminated before re-use.
7)In normal times, consider flu vaccination before every flu season. I’ll admit that this is controversial among many in the preparedness community. The flu vaccine will be effective AS LONG AS the current flu virus is similar to last year’s; the vaccine uses the previous year’s viral proteins in its production. If this year’s flu is genetically different from last year’s, the vaccine’s effectiveness will be limited. In general, you can expect 60-70% success in avoiding the flu if you get the vaccine. This is far from perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
For their part, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends yearly flu vaccination. Their reasoning is that more peoples’ lives are saved by the vaccine than have complications from its administration. To give an example, a serious neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs more frequently in those who take the flu vaccine, but the increased risk is 1 in 100,000. Weighing the risks against the benefits is part of the CDC’s recommendation process.
Infectious diseases will be with us as long as there are viruses and bacteria. If you devote some time and effort to preparing for them, you keep your family healthy, even in a world that’s not.
Joe Alton, M.D. aka Dr. Bones
Joe Alton, M.D.
For more about influenza, check out our Amazon bestseller (top 100 of all books on Amazon last week) “The Survival Medicine Handbook”. See 150 5-star reviews on the amazon page.