Disaster has struck and everything you planned for at its worst, unfortunately, is unfolding right before your eyes. You think you’re ready. You’re armed, educated, in your shelter or bunker and your survival instincts have switched from the first 24 hours to the rest of your life. The question you have to ask yourself now is do you know how to defend yourself or your family from the unseen enemy, because when SHTF, nature’s diseases tend to feast on the sick, the foolish and the unprepared.
Good hygiene isn’t the only thing you’ll need to do to survive. Here are some guidelines for you to consider as you practice and prepare for surviving a really bad day. Let’s break down what to do and why you should do it based on possible sources of illnesses.
Animal & Insect Attacks
When all hell breaks loose, so do people’s pets. Dogs, cats and every other critter once under control may very well roam free where you are. Since they’re trying to survive just as much as you are, they may be an active threat all by themselves. Stopping a known threat is pretty academic if you were smart enough to put survival weapons in your shelter. Rifles, shotguns, handguns and even archery equipment can do that job if you’re up to the marksmanship challenge and remembered to stockpile ammunition. Besides unavoidable encounters, the CDC says to avoid animals after a disaster, along with any sort of biting or stinging insect. Good advice, but certainly not breaking news. So how do you do that? Keeping critters away, which might not have your same level of dedication to keeping clean and healthy, is paramount. The CDC recommends keeping food sources secure to minimize attracting animals of all kinds, including rats and other animals that serve as hosts for disease-carrying pests.
Minimizing your exposure to dreaded insects like mosquitoes also plays a significant role in reducing your exposure to malaria, West Nile Virus and dengue fever. Officials at the CDC said, “To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use screens on dwellings; wear long pants, socks and long-sleeved shirts; and use insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin. Follow directions on the product label and take care when using DEET on small children.” Some of the things you can do to help reduce the mosquito population are to remove standing water in and around your shelter. Places like abandoned tires, flower pots, pools and flooded areas all serve as standing-water mosquito breeding grounds and should be eliminated whenever possible. Still, something horrific has happened for you to be in disaster-survival mode and chances are there are going to be animal carcasses around. If you decide to leave your shelter, or worse, if the dead animals are in your shelter already, what are the best ways to get rid of them? The CDC says wearing personal protective equipment like gloves are key, and to dispose of the remains via plastic bags. The CDC also says to call authorities to come get the carcasses, but for our situation, the emergency services, police and other first responders have all collapsed.
Disease And Crowds
Dead bodies, animal or human, are a problem, but they’re not the biggest problem facing survivors with regard to the spread of disease if a natural disaster like a flood or super storm is the cause of the deaths. According to The Communicable Diseases Working Group on Emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO), “The risk of (disease) outbreaks is associated with the size, health status and living conditions of the population displaced by the natural disaster. Crowding, inadequate water and sanitation, and poor access to health services, often characteristic of sudden population displacement, increase the risk of communicable disease transmission.”
So what is the most important thing survivors should worry about when it comes to staying healthy after a disaster? The WHO again serves as our expert source by saying, “Ensuring uninterrupted provision of safe drinking water is the most important preventive measure to be implemented following a natural disaster.” Why? The reason is the need for water is irrefutable, and if the water is contaminated, then you have to pick your poison, so to speak. Do you die from dehydration or do you take your chances with questionable water? Here are just a few of the most likely water-borne illnesses you might encounter in a disaster situation: diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis A and hepatitis E, and many more. According to WHO documents, an outbreak of diarrhea reached more than 17,000 cases following a flood in Bangladesh in 2004. Terrific. How do we clean our water if it’s contaminated? The experts at the WHO said, “Chlorine is widely available, inexpensive, easily used and effective against nearly all waterborne pathogens.” Still, the takeaway here is to plan for a clean source of water.
Disaster Health Issues
During a disaster, however, bad water isn’t your only pitfall for encountering a deadly disease. Being around crowds of people who are displaced is bad news for your immune system as well. Here are a few diseases, according to the WHO, you can expect if you find yourself amongst quite a few friends who share in your horrible day. Measles can spread like wildfire, especially if immunizations in the region afflicted have gone lax or are even non-existent. Another game-changing illness is meningitis. Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) will rear their ugly head as well because they feast on disaster recovery’s inherently high risk factors.
Rusty nails, dog bites, cuts and other injuries can make you susceptible to tetanus. According to the WHO, “Tetanus is not transmitted from person to person, but is caused by a toxin released by the anaerobic tetanus bacillus Clostridium tetani. Contaminated wounds, particularly in populations where routine vaccination coverage levels are low, are associated with morbidity and mortality from tetanus.” How do you take care of wounds? In best-case scenarios you can seek professional medical attention, but that may not always be available.
When the power goes out, whether it’s in your house, on your street or throughout your entire county, there are things you need to be aware of to help fend off life-threating diseases or illnesses after a disaster. With the power out, going to your generator makes sense. If and when you do, be sure to ventilate it so that carbon monoxide doesn’t claim your family before you’ve had a chance to open your bug-out bag. The CDC said if the power is out longer than two hours, throw away food that has a temperature higher than 40 degrees, and of course try to verify that your drinking water is safe to drink. Remember, if the power goes out it means the power may go out at sewage treatment plants, or other municipal utility services, so even if you are getting your water from the tap after a disaster, verify that it’s clean and safe through proper authorities or your own water quality testing. If the weather’s particularly hot, try to stay cool to avoid heat illnesses.