With news of Ebola spreading in West Africa and even entering the US in a few isolated cases, people are understandably worried about the possibility of a pandemic coming to their town. It seems every season there is a new virus or infection to worry about. With people all over prepping for Ebola, the knowledge you acquire to protect yourself and loved ones in a pandemic survival situation has never been more valuable.
In this article I am going to show you what preventative measures to take to reduce your risk of exposure before, during, and after a pandemic. We are also going to take a look at some of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available to keep the chances of transmitting an illness as minimal as possible including kits like these:
|Freedom Hill Pandemic PPE Kit||Ebola Virus Preparedness and Travel Kit||Personal Ebola Preparedness Kit
Understanding How Pandemics Are Transmitted
Knowing how a pandemic is spread is the first key step in planning to protect yourself from getting sick. Pandemics are generally passed on in 3 ways – through the air, through physical contact, and through contaminated food or water. Let’s take a look at these 3 methods and the illnesses that are transmitted through them.
Transmission Through The Air
Many bacterial and viral infections are transmitted through the air. This generally happens when a sick person coughs or sneezes, which releases the microbes into mucus or saliva droplets into the air. If a healthy person breathes in these particles, in they can become infected. Here are some of the most common illnesses that can be transmitted through the air in this manner:
- Bacterial Meningitis
- Common cold
- Strep throat
- Whooping cough
Protecting Yourself From Air Transmitted Infection
- Wear a surgical mask – Note this does not filter the air, it is designed to protect splatter or spray from coughs and sneezes from entering your mouth and nose. To filter air one would need a respirator.
- Wash your hands if you come into contact with someone who has been coughing or sneezing
- Make sure any rooms you share with a person who is ill are well ventilated
- If you are caring for a family member that has contracted one of the illnesses mentioned above, encourage them to wear a mask and to wash their hands as often as possible
- Note that according to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), Ebola CANNOT be transmitted through the air.
Transmission Through Touch
The second common transmission method is through physical contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person including:
- Breast milk
Transmission may occur from both direct contact (touching mucus, blood, etc directly) or indirect sources (touching a surface, doorknob, or shaking hands with someone who has the mucus/blood/etc on their hands). Once you have made contact the pathogen can enter your body through broken skin or through your nose, eyes, or mouth. Here are some of the most widely known illnesses that are passed on via touch:
- Rhinovirus (common cold)
Protecting Yourself From Touch Transmitted Infection
- Wash your hands frequently, especially if you come into contact with a sick person
- Wipe down surfaces that have been contacted by a sick person with an antibacterial cleanser or bleach solution
- Do not handle items that have come in contact with a sick person (clothing, bedsheets, medical equipment)
- Wear gloves or other PPE if you think there is a high risk of encountering sick individuals or if caring for an ill family member
Transmission Through Contaminated Food Or Drinking Water
There are 2 main pandemics that are typically transmitted through drinking water:
Both of these have been nearly eliminated from the western world by improved sanitation conditions and antibiotics but still regularly occur in less developed countries. In the event of a major disaster, there is the chance of these plagues returning again until our society is able to get back on our feet.
These are caused by microorganisms that thrive in unsanitary water and food. Modern water treatment techniques and food handling methods are effective at eliminating both types of bacteria.
Protecting Yourself From Food & Water Transmitted Infection
- Practice hand hygiene after going to the bathroom and before preparing food
- Boil water that you think may be contaminated or treat it chemically or with ultraviolet light
- Cook food thoroughly before eating
- Make sure your waste is being kept far away from your water source if you are setting up a camp
Prepping For Pandemic Survival
Now that we know what we are up against let’s take a look at what steps we can take to prepare and protect ourselves. We are going to look at the 3 stages of a pandemic – before, during, and after – and see what we can do to reduce our chances of exposure during each.
What to do before pandemic
If a pandemic has reached towns in your area or a location where people in your community frequently travel to, it is a good time to start making preparations to limit your exposure to any potential carriers. You do not need to put your life on hold, but raising your level of vigilance will not hurt.
Wash hands your hands religiously
This is something we are going to see again and again through this article and throughout medical literature. Your hands are one of the most common ways that a pathogen enters your body so it is extra important to cleanse them frequently when a pandemic is on the rise. Try to instill the importance of this in your children as well if they are old enough to understand its importance.
Be aware of symptoms
Before a pandemic strikes is the best time to educate yourself on the symptoms that are caused by the illness. This will allow you to identify whether or not people you encounter are affected. It also allows you to get medical attention to any family member who falls ill as soon as possible.
While it is good to know general symptoms for many illnesses, it is also wise to educate yourself on the specific symptoms of the particular pandemic that you see coming. If you are prepping for Ebola, you should be aware that Ebola’s symptoms are:
- Nausea & vomiting
- Unexpected bruising
- Diarrhea (possibly bloody)
- Redness in the eyes
- Raised rashes
- Chest pains and coughing
- Stomach pain
- Severe weight loss
- Bleeding, usually from the eyes or other orifices (ears, nose and rectum)
Seek medical help immediately if you show ANY symptoms
You may see that a pandemic is approaching but not realize it has arrived until it is too late. Because of this it is vitally important to seek professional medical help as soon as possible if you or a family member begins showing any symptoms of illness.
Get vaccinated if possible
If a vaccine has been developed for an illness that is spreading rapidly it is wise to take it as soon as possible. Not every illness mentioned above has a vaccine unfortunately and it will not help against illnesses transmitted by bacteria. But, if a vaccine is available this is really the only way to ensure that you are safe against infection.
Start planning for disruptions
If a pandemic becomes widespread there will be disruptions in everyday life. Some of these may be imposed to prevent transmission of the pandemic and some may be by choice to reduce your own risk. Some things to consider when planning include:
- Schools may be suspended – plan childcare if you are going to still be required to go to work
- Transportation may be disrupted – you may need to find alternate ways to get to your workplace. Avoiding public transportation is a good idea anyways during a pandemic, plan accordingly.
- Discuss plans with work – talk to your boss about working arrangements during a pandemic. They may be planning to close the office or have employees work from home. You may need to work from home yourself to take care of a sick family member. Discuss these possibilities so you know what your options are.
- Stock up on food and water – Having what you need at home means less trips to the store and less chance of exposure. Stock up on non-perishable items and clean water before panic hits and the shelves are empty.
What to do during pandemic
The steps to take during a pandemic survival situation are primarily focused on avoiding exposure and keeping safe until it passes. With careful planning, good hygiene discipline, and a bit of luck we can maximize our chances of passing through a pandemic unharmed.
Avoid crowds at all costs
The more people you come into contact with, the higher your chances of exposure. During a pandemic crowds should be avoided at all costs. This includes avoiding:
- Areas where people congregate
- Public transportation – if you HAVE to use it avoid rush hour
- Sporting events
If you do need to go out try to stay at least 1 meter away from other people.
Wash your hands
Again, washing your hands is the easiest way to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands whenever you arrive at a destination, after you encounter a crowd, and especially if you come into contact with a person whom you suspect to be sick.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If you do have to pass through an area where there is a crowd or it is likely that there have been sick people around, you may want to wear PPE to minimize the chances of transmission. This is also important if you are called upon to care for a sick family member. What you wear will depend on the nature of the pandemic as well as how you come into contact with these elements. We will cover PPE in detail below but for now, keep in mind that it is an option.
Have Your Stay At Home Plan Ready
Depending on the nature of the pandemic, it may be best to stay at home with your family instead of bugging out. Make sure you have a plan in place to accommodate this that includes food, water, and communicating with friends, family, and neighbors in the outside world.
- If you are a single parent, coordinate with a caretaker to look after your children if their daycare center is closed
- Make arrangements to work from home if possible
- If you live alone or are caring for an elderly or disabled person make arrangements with another caregiver in the event that you yourself get ill
- Make sure the phone numbers for your doctor, local hospital, neighbors, and family are posted prominently in the home
- Avoid face to face meetings if possible, rely on phone and email to communicate
- Postpone non-critical travel and gatherings
What to do after a pandemic
If you are fortunate enough to survive a pandemic you will be left with putting the pieces of the community and your own life back together. There may still be pockets of infection present, here is how we can avoid getting sick from them:
- Avoid hospitals and medical equipment where pandemic victims have been treated
- Do not touch the clothes, belongings, or bodies of those who were infected, wear your PPE if this is absolutely necessary
- Contact local authorities to have the deceased disposed of properly
- Remain vigilant when coming into contact with others, keep an eye out for lingering symptoms of the pandemic
- Avoid coming in contact with objects or surfaces that may be contaminated when visiting a relative who may be recovering
- Get vaccinated if a vaccine has been developed
How Personal Protective Equipment Can Protect You
One of the best ways we can reduce our chances of becoming infected by a pandemic is to wear Personal Protective Equipment or PPE whenever we need to come in contact with those who are infected. This PPE is similar to what we imagine a doctor wearing in a hospital and is designed to protect the most common entry points of bacteria or a virus into the body as well as minimize our chances of infecting others. If you are prepping for an ebola outbreak or any other pandemic, the PPE that I am going to discuss here is designed to protect your:
- Exposed skin
PPE For Your Hands
|Dynarex Black Nitrile Exam Gloves||Kimberly-Clark Nitrile Powder Free Exam Gloves||Dynarex Synthetic Vinyl Powder Free Glove
Gloves are the most commonly used PPE to protect your hands from contacting an infected person or surface. These are a highly effective barrier against infection and should be worn whenever you are in an area where sick people have been as well as if you are caring for an infected person.
- Gloves are typically made from vinyl, latex, or nitrile
- They come in sterile and non-sterile (but still clean) varieties
- If you working in an area with rough surfaces consider wearing two pairs of gloves, remove and replace both layers if one suffers a tear or becomes heavily contaminated
- Even if you are wearing gloves be conscious of what you are touching. If you inadvertently scratch an itch or rub an eye with an infected glove this has a very high chance of transmitting the illness to you.
- Also avoid touching things like doors and light switches with contaminated gloves to avoid cross contamination
- Make sure your gloves fit snugly and allow you to use your hands as needed
PPE For Your Eyes
|Uvex Stealth OTG Safety Goggles||Pyramex Safety Goggles Chemical Splash Anti-Fog Lens||3M TEKK Protection Splash/Impact Goggle
PPE designed to protect your eyes will consist of goggles that should fit snugly around your eyes. This will prevent mucus, blood, and saliva from a cough, sneeze, or other ejection from entering your body through your eyes.
- If you are going to be wearing goggles for an extended period consider applying anti-fog solution before putting them on
- Personal eyeglasses are better than nothing but do not provide the same level of protection as a set of goggles
- If you touch a contaminated surface with your hands or gloves be very careful not to rub your eyes or touch the inside of your goggles
PPE For Your Nose & Mouth
|3M Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator ||3M Particulate Respirator and Surgical Mask||MSA Safety Works Multi-Purpose Respirator
There are two types of PPE for your nose and mouth. The more common one is a surgical mask. This is a semi-spherical shaped mask that is fastened around the back of your head by either tying it in place or with elastic straps. The mask should also pinch snugly around the bridge of your nose for a good fit.
- Masks are generally rated based on how small a particle they will prevent from passing through, N95 is the most commonly used rating.
- Note that a surgical mask WILL NOT filter the air. It is designed to stop fluids from splattering at your nose and mouth and to keep your own sneezes and coughs contained.
- If you are worried about airborne pathogens you will need a respirator to keep you safe. This also fits snugly on the nose and mouth but actively filters the air you breathe. Respirators are generally more expensive than surgical masks but provide this extra level of protection.
- Again, if you touch a contaminated surface with your hands be sure not to touch your face or the inside of your mask or respirator when adjusting or removing it
PPE For Exposed Skin & Clothing
|Medline Basic isolation gown||Medline Industries Closed Back Coated Polypropylene Isolation Gowns||DuPont Disposable Elastic Wrist, Bootie & Hood White Tyvek Coverall Suit
If you are going to be traveling through a crowd or have frequent exposure to people infected with the pandemic you will want to protect any exposed skin and prevent your clothes from becoming contaminated.
Wearing a gown or apron is the appropriate PPE for this purpose. These typically are worn by doctors performing surgery or in other environments where blood, saliva, or mucus spray is likely.
- Gowns cover arms and torso and fasten in the back with ties.
- Not all gown materials are fluid resistance. If you expect heavy soiling make sure you have a gown that is fluid resistant or fluid proof.
- Gowns should be donned before gloves and the wrist of the glove should overlap the gown sleeve
Personal Protective Equipment Tips
- Make sure your PPE fits snugly. It will not serve you well if it gets caught and tears as you move or inhibits your intended actions.
- Have extra PPE on hand so you can replace damaged or contaminated items
- Consider the type of exposure that you are most likely to face. Are you likely to face spraying body fluids, airborne contaminants or large numbers of infected people? Are you just trying to keep yourself safe during your commute? Will you be caring for a sick relative? Be sure to choose gear that is appropriate to your needs.
- Make sure you put your PPE on before you are exposed to infected people, even before you leave your home if possible.
- When done, remove PPE carefully to prevent cross contamination. Do not touch the insides of masks, goggles, or gowns with contaminated gloves.
- A full set of PPE is generally put on in a specific sequence to maximize protection:
- Put the gown on first
- Mask or respirator goes on second
- Goggles go on next
- Gloves go on last
- Make sure everything is adjusted and snug fitting before you touch any contaminated surfaces to avoid having to make adjustments with contaminated gloves
- After removing PPE be sure to wash your hands before doing anything else
Prepping For The Next Pandemic
Partnering these tips with properly used PPE should give you the best chance possible of making it through the next pandemic unscathed, whether you are prepping for Ebola or the next plague. Remember to use caution and common sense when considering to travel, congregate, or otherwise interact with others and be sure to practice good hygiene to prevent a pandemic from spreading.
Please also note that I am not a doctor and this article is absolutely no substitute for sound medical advice. The majority of the information found here is publicly available from the CDC, Wikipedia, and other online sources. If you or someone you know is showing any symptoms of infection seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Do you have advice for protecting your family during a pandemic survival scenario? Do you have PPE that you would recommend? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!