Movies like Outbreak and Contagion might seem like Hollywood exaggeration, but if you read the Canadian news’ timeline of the 2003-2004 global outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) you would think you were reading a movie script. World Health Organization (WHO) doctor Dr. Carlo Urbani, in Feburay, 2003, identified SARS at a hospital in Hanoi. A virus causes SARS, an extreme form of pneumonia. The disease spread rapidly all over the world. The outbreak lasted over a year with more than 8,000 people infected and caused over 700 deaths. Experts warn that a global pandemic of a virus or flu could cause school and business closings, loss of services like electricity, waste disposal and transportation, isolation and quarantine and public gathering bans. Between February 2003 and April 2004, most of these warnings rang true for a lot of Asian countries and Canada.
In Canada, healthcare workers became infected and quarantined. Hospitals stop accepting patients and even shut down facilities completely. In March, Canada quarantined thousands.
Singapore closed their public schools and ordered a 10-day quarantine for those who possibly were infected.
Hit extremely hard, Hong Kong closed its schools and quarantined thousands of people.
In China, where SARS originated, all public schools closed for a month and the government cancelled the May Day holiday. In May 2003, China threatened the death sentence or life imprisonment to anyone ordered to quarantine who broke quarantine and intentionally infected others.
Even in the United Kingdom, in April 2003, students returning to the country from spring break in Singapore, Hong Kong, and China entered quarantine camps by force.
Overall, SARS costs billions of dollars worldwide in healthcare costs, lost wages, and lost tourism money.
History shows us how global pandemics can cause not only an enormous amount of lives, but also serious problems. From 1918 to 1919 the Spanish Flu killed anywhere from 20 to 40 million people worldwide. During that year, there was a lack of medical supplies and personnel, lack of funeral services and coffins, and stores could not keep stock of food and basic supplies. From 1957 to 1958, the Asian flu cost one to three million lives and the Hong Kong flu of 1968 to 1969 killed one to three million. In June of 2009, the United States had over 1 million confirmed cases of H1N1 flu.
Presently, flu takes the lives of 250,000 to 500,000 people annually. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States reports 3,000 to 49,000 flu-related deaths each year. The flu always mutates and changes so we never can build a “permanent immunity” to it. (webmd.com) Experts agree that it is not if, but when the next global flu pandemic will be. The CDC suspects that a severe pandemic could take more than 2 million lives and that “difficult decisions will need to be made regarding who gets antiviral drugs and vaccines.” Fortunately, we have the time to prepare for a global flu pandemic. Because vaccines can take up to six months to make, test, and distribute, it is best to plan to bug-in for three months. This means you need enough food and water for three months for your family. The CDC estimates that more than half of America will be unprepared for the destruction of society during the worst pandemic before it is too late, but if you prepare now you will not be part of the mass hysteria of gathering supplies.
The CDC reports that any strain of the flu will last six to eight weeks, coming in multiple waves lasting two to three months each. When this happens, you are looking at planning for a long-term bug-in event. Death, illnesses, and quarantines will cause interruptions in basic services such as trash pickup. Even hospitals will be unable to cope. This means that your city’s water, electric provider, and sanitation services will be down. Further, you will need to prepare for a family member, friend, or neighbor you are caring for to become ill. Along with your food and water supplies, stock up on the following:
- Garbage bags
- Flu medicine, pain medication, and cough drops
- Hand sanitizer
- Gas masks
- Plastic gloves
- Plastic sheeting or tarps
- Duct tape
- Shower caps
- Activity books, both educational and fun and games to keep children occupied
What to do if someone gets sick
If someone in your home or someone you are care for falls ill with symptoms of the virus, you must isolate them in a sick room. You will need to seal off the sick room as best you can with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Designate one person to be the caretaker to administer food and medicine. When you go into the sick room, you will need to cover yourself completely, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes. You can cover your clothing with a poncho. Before leaving the sick room, remove the poncho.
If you must leave the house
The flu virus spreads much like a cold, through the air from wet droplets from when someone sneezes, coughs, and even just through normal breathing. The virus can also spread when you touch an infected surface. If you must leave your home to find more supplies, cover your mouth and nose with a N95 mask. Do not touch anyone or anything without plastic gloves. You can always dispose of the plastic gloves outside your home. If you have found more food, medicine and supplies, leaving them out in direct sunlight for at least two hours can kill any virus left on them. Bleach is also an excellent disinfectant. The flu can be contagious even before symptoms show up, so be extra cautious around others, they might be sick.
Desperation is sure to set in for those who did not prepare, especially if they have a loved one who has fell ill. They will want you have. Board up your house during the pandemic. Fortify doors and windows with heavy pieces of furniture. Invest in a gun and stockpile plenty of ammo. Do not let those on the outside see how well prepared you are for the pandemic. Cover your windows with foil or black garbage bags. Do not make it easy for looters to break in.
What you can do now
Besides keeping all needed supplies, food, water, and medicine, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle now. Regular exercise and taking vitamins C and D will help you stay healthy with a strong immune system. Get in the habit of practicing good hygiene. This means to wash your hands after touching common areas, such as public door handles, and do not rub your eyes, nose or mouth with dirty hands. Seasonal flu shots might also be helpful. Join the CDC’s email list to stay informed.
It was nine years ago that the WHO declared SARS officially contained. If you haven’t started preparing, I think today is just as good as any other to start.
To read about how much food and water to keep, read our blog, How much food and water do you actually need?