In this latest part of our series on influenza, we will concentrate on ways to prevent the flu. Influenza hospitalizes 200,000 U.S. citizens every year, killing 36,000.
As the person medically responsible for your people in a survival scenario, it is your duty to do everything to prevent infectious disease from running rampant among your people. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 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 the problem in the first place.
People Most Vulnerable to Influenza
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
- Dump bad habits like smoking, which makes your lungs weaker and more prone to infection. Statistics show that influenza affects a higher percentage of smokers than non-smokers.
A strong index of suspicion is a good weapon in your fight to keep your people healthy. Watch your members closely for signs of flu symptoms:
Flu symptoms include:
- A fever of 100degrees 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. 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. As the medic, however, this is not an option for you. Having a good supply of protective masks, however, will be an important item to stockpile. Use simple earloop masks for the flu victims, and the N95 respirator masks for the medic. This strategy will stop germ-laden viruses from infecting the caregiver.
Although maintaining good hygiene will be a challenge in a collapse, simple strategies can be employed to make it tougher for viruses to do their damage.
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.
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. If you don’t have it, get it.
3)Discourage family members from touching their nose, mouth or eyes. This happens a lot more than you’d think. Just observe any child for 30 minutes and count the times they touch their face. You’ll be surprised at how frequently this happens. Hands to the face = viral particles into the body.
4)Don’t be reluctant to have your group wear 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 many other regions.
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.
6)Dispose of tissues used by sick patients. Don’t leave them around for others to touch. Bedding and utensils used by flu victims should be sterilized before re-use.
7)In normal times, consider flu vaccination before every flu season. 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 viral proteins in its production. If this year’s flu is genetically different from last year’s, the vaccine’s effectiveness will be limited (Antigenic Shift, as explained in Part 1 of this series, link below). In general, you can expect 60-70% success in avoiding the flu if you get the vaccine.
Having said this, the Center for Disease Control 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.
In the next part of this article, we’ll discuss prevention and treatment of influenza using conventional medications and natural remedies.
Joe Alton, M.D. aka Dr. Bones