How to Survive an Epidemic
Copyright © August 16, 2014 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
The following is not medical advice nor is it a medical recommendation.
Please consult a licensed medical practitioner to have your medical questions answered.
The "Spanish Flu" Influenza Pandemic began in January of 1918 and it lasted until December of 1920. Historical information about this flu can vary based on the source of the information. In the early part of the year 1918 most nations censored the truth about this flu in their newspapers in order to avoid mass hysteria. However, the Spanish government allowed its newspapers the freedom to report the truth and therefore it appeared to the rest of the world that the flu had hit Spain harder than any other nation on the face of the earth. That is how the flu got the name of "Spanish Flu." However, the flu impacted people everywhere in exactly the same way. Most estimates are that approximately 500 million people worldwide came down with the flu and somewhere between 50 million to 100 million of those people died. In other words, between 10% to 20% of the people who caught the flu eventually died.
People have not changed and governments have not changed. If the early stages of a future worldwide pandemic there will probably be a lot of misinformation being circulated in order to prevent public hysteria and panic. Therefore it would probably make good sense to prepare now for a possible future pandemic because once the pandemic becomes widespread it will be too late to prepare.
The worst mistake that a family could make would be to prepare for a specific type of pandemic and then be killed by a totally different type of plague. Therefore the most reasonable course of action would be to prepare for pandemics in general and then for a specific plague as you believe appropriate.
A few examples of other historical plagues include the Black Death (or bubonic plague), Smallpox, Typhoid Fever, and Scarlet Fever.
Generic Information about Plagues
Diseases are spread from person to person in different ways. Some are spread through the air, some in drinking water, and some through physical contact with people who already have the disease. In addition, some are spread between animals, or birds, and then to people.
There is no one single strategy for preparing for a plague that would be appropriate for all families because of a multitude of different variables, such as where the family lives, the number of people in the family, the age and health of the individual family members, and the amount of money the family can invest in preparing for a pandemic.
Any preparations you make for a future epidemic will need to be feasible for your family based on the above variables.
How to Identify a Specific Plague
Three of the common symptoms of sickness are fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. The reason is because these symptoms occur automatically as part of the body's natural defense system against disease and in many cases they are successful in ridding the body of whatever harmful organisms that are attacking it. Therefore it would not be unusual for anyone to have these three symptoms as long as they were not accompanied by the more serious symptoms of a plague.
Therefore the above symptoms would not be reliable indicators of a specific type of plague. If a plague begins to spread through your area then the best strategy would be to identify some of the unique symptoms of that plague to help you identify it.
The incubation period for diseases varies. After a person is exposed then the person may appear normal for a specific period of time until they actually display the symptoms of their illness.
The contagious time frame for diseases also varies. In some cases a person is contagious from the time they are first exposed to the disease until long after their death. This is the reason that the dead bodies of plague victims were usually burned or immediately buried in deep pits.
The proper treatment of each disease is also a variable. In some cases an infected person may eventually get better. But in some cases a family may not be able to do anything to help an infected family member survive. It all depends on the type of plague.
Is Isolation Feasible?
Quarantine of a sick family member is critical. However, the healthy person who takes care of the sick person may eventually become infected with the disease. If this is a possibility then the healthy care giver should be quarantined in an area close to the sick person but away from the rest of the healthy members of the family when the care giver first begins assisting the sick person. This may help to prevent the spread of the disease throughout the entire family.
Helping sick family members is the best course of action if there is a reasonable chance the person will survive, such as a low death toll of 1%.
On the other hand, if the death toll is 75% or higher then the best course of action may be to isolate the sick family member and pray. In this type of situation anyone who comes in contact with the sick person will probably get sick and then both people would have a 75% of dying. If a third person attempts to help then that person may also get sick and pretty soon your entire family may be sick. If everyone in your family is sick then there will be no healthy person to take care of the needs of all the sick people and all of the sick people will probably get sicker and sicker until they all die.
If your family contains young children and all the adults in your family die then your children may not survive for very long, even if they are not sick, because nobody may be willing to help them in any way. With this in mind it may become necessary for you to accept the fact that one person in your family may die of the plague regardless of what you may do. However, if all the other members of your family survive then you should be thankful that the death toll in your family was not greater. If you think this strategy is a reasonable one then you need to stop right now and ponder the question of whether or not you would recommend this strategy to your family if you were the person who got sick first?
Dehydration and Starvation
The proper treatment of a sick person will depend on why the person is sick. However, a sick person will still need to eat and drink.
Some type of electrolyte beverage, such as Gatorade, Powerade, or Pedialyte, will satisfy the person's thirst and help to minimize the impact of dehydration.
Some type of broth or soup will help the person regain their strength. Other foods are too difficult for a sick person to digest and the sick person may vomit the food out before it has a chance to enter into the intestines. But broth or a thin soup can pass through the stomach into the intestines faster and this will minimize the chance that the sick person will vomit all or most of the food back up.
An electrolyte beverage recipe has been on my website here since the year 2007. This same recipe is also in my book Grandpappy's Recipes for Hard Times on page 89.
Recipes for chicken broth and beef broth are on my website here. These same recipes are also in my recipe book on pages 17 and 18.
Professional Medical Care Facilities
Do not depend on professional medical facilities during a disaster or an epidemic. Hospitals and other medical facilities will quickly run out of space to house the sick people and they will not have enough medical personnel to see to the needs of the overwhelming number of critically ill dying people. Medical facilities will also quickly become the breeding grounds for the growth and spread of the disease so the death toll inside a facility that houses a huge number of sick people will probably be higher than the death toll in a home where there are only one or two sick people. Therefore you should think very carefully about whether or not you would want to enter a medical facility if you become sick with the plague after the facility has already become saturated with people who are dying of the plague.
Information about Diseases
The internet is probably not the best source of information about diseases.
Anyone who has taken the time in the past to research possible cures for a specific medical problem has probably discovered that there is a lot of information available on the internet and a lot of that information contradicts other information on the internet. This makes it very difficult to make a good decision about what you should do and what you should not do to treat a specific medical condition.
Anyone who has a chronic medical condition and who has visited two or more different doctors has probably discovered that even doctors sometimes do not agree on the best way to treat a specific medical condition.
If this is the case, then how can a normal person such as you or I obtain some reliable information about specific diseases? May I suggest that you consider the purchase of the Merck Manual of Medical Information, 2nd Home Edition that is recommended on my website here.
The type and severity of an epidemic may force you to abandon your current home and move someplace else. This is not a new strategy. It was documented in the book "Man and Society in Calamity" on page 109 by Pitirim A. Sorokin in the following brief quote: "Great epidemics depopulate a region not only directly, by killing a part of its population, but also by forcing another part to flee from the infected centers to other places held to be safer."
Therefore you should be prepared with a "Plan A" and a "Plan B" and a "Plan C" if you wish for your family to have the best possible chance of surviving a serious epidemic.
If your family is adequately prepared to survive hard times, then your family is also probably prepared to survive an epidemic. An epidemic is just one of the many challenges your family may face in the years ahead as the hard times continue to get worse and worse across the entire globe.
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