Thinking about bird flu

Unless you’ve been under a rock (which may not be a bad thing, given all the weirdities in the news lately), you’ve probably heard all the talk about the potential bird flu outbreak. It’s all over the web, the mainstream media, and is making the water-cooler circuit at workplaces around the country.

It’s some pretty scary stuff. The last time a flu bug jumped the species barrier, we had the Spanish Flu, which killed 25-50 million people during its run in 1918-1919. I remember the cemetery in the small West Virginia town where my Dad grew up–there is a whole section there that is only people who died from what they called “the flux”.

Since then, we’ve been lucky and not had a repeat. However, our luck may be (and I emphasize, “may be”) running out. H5N1 seems to be on the move.

Consider this: In 1918, travel was slow. There were no airlines, just trains and ships for the most part. If you had to travel a few thousand miles, it took days. Time enough for the travelers to get sick and be quarantined to help slow the spread.

In 2005, travel is fast and efficient (if you leave out the TSA). If you pick up a bug, you can be halfway across the world and still feeling fine–all the while spreading it far and wide as you move about.

If this bird flu bug gets into circulation, people could die by the millions again. Some WHO-type has bandied about the number of 150 million, but in reality no one really knows. It could be fewer, or it could be more. A lot more.

You’ve probably also heard about the President’s idea, which he’s ran up the flagpole to a rousing chorus of razzberries, of the military taking a big part in dealing with any outbreak here in the US. Posse comitatus aside, it’s a frightening idea, even though I understand his point. The US military is the only organization we have with the capability of mounting such a large-scale effort quickly. I mean, face it–you want FEMA to handle this?

Should this event come to pass, I expect there will be some sort of widespread quarantine. The idea would be that if we can keep people from congregating in groups and from moving around from place to place, the bug will kill most of those who are infected, but they won’t be able to infect other people before they become ill enough to be recognized as “sick”.

From a survivalist standpoint, there are things you can do now in order to survive any problems our hypothetical bird flu outbreak may bring:

  • The ever-popular stocking up on food and water is a first step. You may not be allowed to go to a grocery store if things get bad. If things get worse, the grocery store may be empty–truckers get sick too.
  • If things got bad enough, various utilities might be unavailable. Be ready for this.
  • You’ll need communications gear, all battery-powered, just in case. A small TV, a radio with shortwave bands and a good scanner will all prove useful for keeping tabs on things. Get plenty of batteries, too.
  • You should have a stock of disposable facial masks (similar to these) for use if you do have to interact with people. Flu is usually transmitted through airborne droplets.
  • You’ll want some stuff to wash up with. Be sure it will kill a virus–anti-bacterial stuff isn’t good enough for this.
  • You’ll need something to wash yourself with as well. I don’t have any suggestions at this point, but I’m sure looking for some.

The Centers for Disease control has some guidelines for long-term care facilities that might prove helpful.

This is another of those posts that I’m going to continue thinking about. Edits will be noted as usual.

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