Want to hear a really scary fact? A global influenza pandemic is inevitable – and we’re talking about the kind with the potential to kill like a worst-case zombie apocalypse.
A pandemic is disease on a large scale – either world-wide or having several nations involved, at the least.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness warns us that it’s not a question of “if” but “when” we will see a pandemic. With just three pandemics occuring in the 20th century, it has now been over 40 years since the last one. The fundamental nature of viruses is that they mutate and keep mutating until thriving in an environment our immune systems no longer recognize.
While many people inquire about “how to know the flu is coming”, a more important question might be “what should I do about a flu pandemic?”.
The H5N1 bird flu virus has received a lot of attention over the last few years but it was largely contained because of its inability to spread from human to human. It is almost always spread from birds to human. But imagine a scenario where such a virus learns how to spread between humans?
Remember the 1918 Spanish flu? This pandemic killed between 20 and 40 million people and disease control centers are now warning of a virus that has the potential to do this again.
Making matters worse, it is estimated that over 40% of public health workers would not report to work during a pandemic – some fearing that they would put themselves at risk and others becoming too ill to work. If you’re hedging hopes on vaccination, keep in mind that it would take a significant amount of time for a vaccine to be produced and available.
Category 5 Survival Tactics
The Pandemic Severity Index rates the lethalness of a virus on a scale from one to six. By way of comparison, the swine flu was a category 2 and the Spanish flu has since been labeled a category 5. Know the risk and understand the danger.
If you have plans to travel to another country, stay abreast of flu trends before leaving. Google has made this all the more manageable with a new website that publishes up to date information on flu activity – and it provides accurate information that is two weeks ahead of published reports.
Always travel with face masks, ibuprofen and disinfectant wipes. Make sure your phone has the number for the US Embassy. In the case of a category 5 threat, travel will likely be shut down but the Embassy will help with medical care, money transfers and keeping your family up to date on your status. If you are in a foreign country and can still get out – do so immediately.
If you find yourself trapped overseas, you’ll want to “hole up” in a location that is easily accessible to food and water but allows you to distance yourself from all others. If circumstances dictate that you must go out in public, maintain a distance of at least six feet from all persons, while always wearing your mask.
While disease centers feel strongly that a future pandemic is an almost certainty, the most important survival tactic is staying informed.
Visit the Pandemic Influenza Frequently Asked Questions for more information on surviving a pandemic.