A man in a gas mask

Experts have stated that it’s not a matter of if, but when a global scale pandemic hits humanity; and we are apparently very unprepared for when it does.

Now, this isn’t a way of trying to strike fear into the masses, or force you to rush out and raid the closest supermarket for every supply you can get your hands on! At the end of the day, this pandemic may not occur for the next 200 years.

But we have looked at what survival tips the experts have given, and this is how you can (apparently) survive the next big pandemic:

Plan for the unexpected

That old chestnut, eh! But the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have stated that you should plan for the possibility that the usual services may be disrupted. This includes services provided by shops, banks and hospitals, as well as disruption to phone companies.

ATMs are likely to be shut down or wiped out of money as people start to panic, so it is wise to keep a small amount of cash to hand. Alongside the other services we mentioned, public transport will likely be affected, and petrol stations will get bled dry so stock up on supplies ahead of time (we’ll cover the importance of this later).

Experts have also noted that it’s a good idea to have face masks on hand to help prevent the spread of diseases. A standard facemask will be sufficient, but an N95 respirator is preferred, as it blocks upwards of 95% of small particles in the air.

If you opt for the N95 and you’re a guy, you may want to stock up on the shaving foam as well, as they do not work very well with facial hair.

Prepare for the worst

Any prepper (apparently, that’s a real thing!) will know how important it is to have the correct supplies at the ready, and the experts tend to agree. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommend that you store at least a two-week supply of food and water in case of a disaster. However, as the first wave of a pandemic could last longer, it would be wise to stock up for at least four to six weeks, or even longer if possible.

Non-perishable foods that don’t need to be refrigerated, or prepared or those that only require minimal cooking should be the aim, along with a supply of water in clean plastic containers. A good rule of thumb is to store a gallon of water per person per day which allows for drinking supplies, food preparation and sanitation.

Alongside your food and water, you will need to consider the season says Dr Stephen Redd, the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) at the CDC, and stock items such as blankets and coats that will keep you warm. He also recommends you buy a battery-operated radio and a month’s supply of any prescription medicines you may need. Other experts also recommend a survival knife for general carry, as you never know when it’ll come in handy.

Epidemiologist (someone who studies the patterns, causes and effects of diseases in groups of people) Mark Smolinski, says you may want to consider stocking up on antiviral medications – those that can be used to treat flu illnesses – although these drugs can become less effective over time. Alongside this, you should also have a stock of other health supplies and over-the-counter drugs, including painkillers, a first aid kit, cold medicines and stomach remedies. It is also advised that you get a copy of your health records from all sources, keeping them at hand for personal reference.

Finally, you should get the latest seasonal vaccine. It is unlikely to protect you from a mutated strain, but there’s a slim chance that it just might.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

[caption id="attachment_1239" align="aligncenter" width="250"]Coughs and sneezes spread diseases post from WWII Posters like this were common during World War II, and the advice remains the same today[/caption]

In the event of a pandemic, it is important to do all you can do to avoid getting sick. But it is also important that you consider what you to do in case you are exposed to the disease and fall ill.

Undertaking ‘voluntary self-isolation’ is seen as imperative, and the CDC recommend that families who have a sick family member will be asked to voluntarily self-quarantine. So, if your partner becomes ill, you would stay home to take care of them, avoiding the chance of putting others at risk when you might be incubating the disease.

Essentially, you want to avoid becoming a ‘superspreader’. It is typical in an epidemic that a small portion of the population is responsible for infecting the majority. For example, during the last Ebola outbreak, 3% of sick people were responsible for about 61% of all infections.

So, should you stay inside for the long haul? Well, this is where the experts conflict with their opinions. Mark Smolinski believes it might be wise to stay where you are and secure your home, but Dr Stephen Redd says that barricading yourself in and going into complete isolation could probably be classed as overkill…

Regardless of your survival strategy, whether you decide to barricade yourself in the house or head into woods with nothing but a loincloth and an air rifle for the small prey which will form the basis of your daily gruel intake (we don’t recommend the latter…), the CDC says you should practice ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions'.

These are essentially non-medical, common sense actions you can take to help slow the spread of a pandemic. In addition to staying away from sick people, FEMA recommends you take basic measures such as washing your hands often and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

For larger communities, other actions can include the postponing of mass gatherings such as sporting events or festivals, making work sick-leave policies and the temporary closing of schools. It’s hard to know how long an outbreak will last when you’re in the thick of it, so you learn to become adaptive.

It’s worth remembering…

During the early stages of an outbreak, misinformation is rife. Be wary of any information you receive during this time.

Alongside the disease itself, panic is another significant feature to be wary of. People often become very scared and will act irrationally, so be wary.

Finally, there’s no guarantee a pandemic will play out exactly as the experts think; but they all say there’s no harm in preparing yourself!


Coughs and Sneezes image courtesy of Wellcome Images, under Creative Commons.

Gas Mask photo courtesy of Steven Guzzardi on Flickr, under Creative Commons.