How to Prepare for a Pandemic

How to prepare for a Pandemic

The world cannot escape illness, disease, viruses, and the like. Epidemiologists have studied the patterns and causes of health-related events that occur within communities and beyond. We can thank their knowledge and research for keeping the public aware of the risks and challenges presented by any developing health hazards.

Pandemics have always been a topic of concern and have historically shown to wipe out large numbers of people. It’s even more concerning nowadays thanks to the advancement of transportation and technology. A person who becomes infected in one part of the world can spread the disease to another part of the world within hours, oftentimes prior to showing symptoms.

In late 2019, the Novel Coronavirus began making headlines in China. The news quickly spread across the world, and with it, the number of infected individuals. A few short months later, the world came to a halt as governing authorities from across many nations tried to stop the spread of what turned into a global pandemic.

Covid-19 is not old news just yet. It will be a matter of time before a cure is found or it becomes eradicated. In the meantime, you should learn how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy.

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Interesting facts

  • The first recorded bubonic plague is said to have been the Plague of Justinian, according to modern scholars. It occurred in the year 541 and was linked to rats on board an Egyptian boat that arrived in the Eastern Roman Empire. The plague wiped out millions of people— sometimes up to 5,000 people were killed each day.

  • The 1918 Spanish Flu was one of the deadliest diseases in history, killing nearly 20%, or one in five, infected individuals.

  • One of the most dangerous diseases is cholera. If left untreated, a person can die just a few short hours after being infected.

  • Some of the deadliest viruses on Earth include the Marburg virus, the Ebola virus, HIV/AIDS, Smallpox, Rabies, the Hantavirus, the Rotavirus, Influenza, Dengue, and the family of the Coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS.

Terms you should know

Endemic: A disease that is native or confined to a specific area or amongst a particular people group.

Epidemic: A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community during the same time period.

Pandemic: An infectious disease that has spread over a whole country or worldwide.

Plague: A contagious bacterial disease characterized by delirium and fever, which can also include the infection of the lungs and the formation of buboes.

Outbreak: The sudden start or flare-up of something unwelcome, in this case, a viral infection or disease.

Incubation period: The period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.

Bioterrorism/ Biological warfare: Terrorism involving the release of toxic biological agents, such as bacteria and viruses.

Quarantine: A period of isolation in which people that have arrived from elsewhere or have been exposed to contagious or infectious diseases are placed.

Current live map of disease outbreaks worldwide

There are several websites where you can find information on any developing diseases.

The Health Map provides a comprehensive world map and offers an email alert option.

The Contagion Live website provides a world map as well with country-specific information on both active and resolved outbreaks, including blood-borne diseases and food-borne infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page where they list all the current outbreaks. This page is not a map but it provides information on US-based outbreaks as well as travel notices affecting international travelers.

In this page, the CDC provides a world map with respect to the current outbreak as well as links to the global case numbers.

How to mitigate a disease outbreak

Every outbreak presents a new set of challenges, not just for ourselves but for government officials who are trying to keep the spread to a minimum and for doctors who are not just overwhelmed with patients, but also have to treat an unknown illness at a mass scale.

  1. Have a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home kit prepared with all your supplies up-to-date. Make sure it includes water and food storage, first aid items, toilet paper and other hygiene supplies, medication, and personal protection equipment (PPE’s). We recommend having a four-week storage of supplies, at the very minimum, but begin stockpiling for two and work your way up from there. Continue reading for more tips on preparing a pandemic preparedness kit.

  2. Discuss a care plan with your loved ones. If one of your family members becomes ill, how will you protect the rest of the family from catching it while caring for the person who has it. If someone in your home is sick, it’s best to quarantine at home in case you’ve become infected and haven’t developed symptoms yet.

  3. Know the pandemic response plans at your work, your children’s schools, and your elderly parent’s senior care facility. If you’re able to obtain copies of these plans, print and keep them with your emergency preparedness folder.

  4. Mentally prepare for a stay-at-home ordinance. Some ordinances may last well beyond the initial quarantine incubation period of 14 days so plan accordingly, whether that is working from home, homeschooling your children, and not being able to visit your loved ones at senior living or other care facilities.

How to stay safe during a pandemic

The following tips are some of the ways that you can best protect yourself from the spread of a disease outbreak. If you catch the disease, seek professional medical help immediately.

General safety tips:

  • Don’t panic. Yup, that’s easier said than done but think about this. The media feeds you fear constantly because that’s what keeps their audience engaged. Spend less time watching the news, scanning social media profiles from politicians and news anchors. This does not mean you should stay completely uninformed, but that brings me to my next tip.

  • Listen to advice from trusted sources. Fake news is so infiltrated that it’s difficult to discern what is the truth and what is a lie.

  • Follow the guidance of the local and international health officials as they are the ones who are actively monitoring the situation as it develops.

  • Keep your distance from other people, especially those who appear to be sick. Depending on the virus or illness, some symptoms may not show until days after a person has been infected. For this reason, you should avoid close contact with people.

  • Spend less time in crowded places. If the disease or illness is highly contagious, crowded places such as transportation terminals, live events, the mall, and other places you frequent often may be breeding grounds for the disease to spread. Of course, there are places where you can’t avoid going, such as the grocery store or the gym, but perhaps you can switch your schedule and go during the off-peak hours.

  • Keep your travels to a minimum. With the advancement of transportation, an illness that begins in one part of the world can appear, within hours, in another part of the world. Try to postpone any unnecessary travel, especially if it requires you to get on an airplane. If you’re able to cancel or postpone your plans to attend a large event, do so.

  • Sanitize surfaces you use often, such as tabletops, work spaces, door handles, etc. Use an alcohol-based wet wipe or sanitizer.

Personal safety tips:

  • Avoid touching your face so much. Pay attention to your habits for a day and you’ll notice how often you rub your eyes, touch your face, and pick your nose. Then remember how you’re putting germs very close to some entry-points in your body, like your mouth, nose, and eyes. So…stop it.

  • Wash your hands more often. Germs are everywhere, and during a pandemic, a highly contagious virus can spread faster than wildfire. It doesn’t help that we touch everything with our hands, and later use those same hands to bring food to our mouths. Be sure to diligently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more prior to preparing and eating food, as well as after using the bathroom, etc. Just practice basic hygiene, but kick it up a few notches. If you don’t have soap, use an alcohol-based sanitizer instead.

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. A study from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the germs in a sneeze can move 100 miles per hour and travel between 19 and 26 feet. But wait, the fun facts don’t end there! Research suggests that the droplets that are released by each sneeze can stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes…that’s crazy! In cases like these, sharing is not caring— do your part to prevent the spread of germs and whatever other droplets you’re releasing. Cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow, rather than your hands. If you use your hands by accident, just wash them.

  • Wear a mask when in public. A mask does not guarantee your immunity of catching a virus but it is said to reduce the spread.

  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well. This should be a given, but I can identify with all the other workaholic folk who will do their best to push past anything to get their work done. When you’re ill, however, you’re exposing others to whatever your body is battling. So stay home until you feel better— you’re not just doing yourself a service but others as well.

  • Take care of yourself and boost your health. You can do this by:
    • Drink a lot of water so your body flushes out all the bad toxins.
    • Eat foods rich in nutrients, such as fresh vegetables and fruits.
    • Do not eat or drink animal products that are raw or undercooked.
    • Take the appropriate vitamins and supplements.
    • Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol.
    • Relive stress by exercising, enjoying time outdoors, meditating, etc.
    • Sleep a minimum of 8 hours daily to allow your body time to recuperate. 

    Pandemic preparedness kit must-haves

    These are some of the basic items that your quarantine lockdown kit should have. We recommend storing enough of these supplies to last your family at least a month.

    • Long-term food storage: Food shortages are bound to happen when a pandemic is declared and people become panicked. Having a minimum stockpile of two weeks or more worth of food will allow you to take the preventative quarantine measures while not having to worry about encountering empty store-shelves. Consider buying freeze-dried food that lasts 25 or more years.

    • Long-term water storage: Water is an essential part of your preparedness supplies. It’s necessary for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation. While a pandemic alone might not cause a water shortage, you should still have plenty in storage. Check out our water tank options here!

    • Stove kit, or another reliable method of boiling water and preparing food.  Here’s a convenient stove solution that is safe for both indoor and outdoor use.

    • PPE’s: Personal Protection Equipment, such as disposable N95, surgical or dust masks, face shields, disposable gloves, etc. If you wear a cloth mask, you should wash it daily.

    • Hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is anti-bacterial, not anti-viral, but it helps sanitize your hands so you might as well have some handy.

    • Hand soap: Just like with sanitizer, you’ll want to keep your hands clean.

    • Tissues and toilet paper: Do you remember the toilet paper apocalypse of 2020? If it happened once, it is bound to happen again. Either be prepared with enough TP or learn how to wipe your bum without it. Here are a bunch of ideas to inspire your creativity if, or when, you run out!

    • Alcohol-based cleaning wipes: Use these to wipe surfaces that are touched or used often.

    • First aid kit: Have your kit fully stocked with prescription and non-prescription medication, electrolytes, fever reducers, etc.

    • Supplements and vitamins: Be sure to ask your doctor which ones are adequate for you so that they don’t interfere with your health or medications if you’re taking any.

    • Entertainment: Staying home during a pandemic lockdown can get boring real fast. Have board games, cards, art supplies, and other forms of entertainment readily available at home. Here's a complete list of ways you can stay entertained (and sane) during a quarantine.

        These items are going to benefit you during a pandemic, so you should consider stockpiling them long before a disease outbreak occurs to ensure that there are no supply shortages when you need them.

        Print the pandemic supplies checklist and safety tips below. Keep this information in your emergency kit so it's handy when you need it the most.

        Recommended supplies for pandemic preparednessClick to download checklist

        Pandemic safety tipsClick to download checklist

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        All definitions were taken from Google’s dictionary which uses Oxford Languages.
        Pandemic to Cost U.S. Economy $7.9 Trillion Over 10 Years — New York Times
        One sneeze spreads germs how far? — Geisinger
        Coronavirus Covid Sneeze Fluid Dynamics in Photos — National Geographic
        Pandemic —
        Get Your Household Ready for the Pandemic Flu — CDC
        Pandemic Influenza — CDC
        The epidemic of statistical modeling studies that ‘predict’ the future: Don’t be a victim as you prepare for the next pandemic — CIDRAP
        Can an algorithm predict the pandemic’s next moves? — The New York Times
        How Pandemics Spread — TED-Ed
        How the COVID-19 Pandemic Could End — Scientific American
        The 12 deadliest viruses on Earth — Live Science
        The Five Deadliest Outbreaks and Pandemics in History — Robert Wood Johnson Foundation