Personal Pandemic Preparedness Plan
October 7, 2005 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Personal Pandemic Preparedness Plan.
posted by stbalbach (53 comments total)
PP and then PP again...
posted by fairmettle at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2005


Though this list really does put the "EEEE!" in "bleek."
posted by grabbingsand at 4:57 PM on October 7, 2005

posted by TwelveTwo at 5:09 PM on October 7, 2005

It not only puts the "EEEE" in, but apparently kicks the "a" out of bleak.
posted by team lowkey at 5:16 PM on October 7, 2005

Where's the other PP?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:18 PM on October 7, 2005

"bulk basics such as flour, sugar, salt, rice, pasta, beans, baking soda, cooking oil (probably not too important unless you plan on preparing foods from scratch)"

What? How else would you be preparing foods if you can't get to the supermarket, can't get to the restaurants and have no electricity to keep your TV dinners frozen? That makes no sense and makes me start questioning the entire (panic inducing, strange, fevered) list.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:28 PM on October 7, 2005

At this point, there is no known vaccine for this strain. And the bird virus is now know to have been the cause of the pandemic of 1918. In what I have read about that scourge, what was odd is that the most vulnerable were not the ones killed! the young and the elderly were often ok; it was the 19-45 group that got it the hardest.
posted by Postroad at 5:28 PM on October 7, 2005

Lots of cans of chicken noodle soup, and bottled water
posted by longsleeves at 5:30 PM on October 7, 2005

Palms perspiring. Panicking. Possibly peed pants.
Packing, planning--possibly picking Pago Pago.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2005

Our scientific and biological technologies are far superior now than they were back in 1920, but the world population is more dense.. Im scared...
posted by chohoh at 5:37 PM on October 7, 2005

The entire pandemic could last a year or more.

Emergency planning guides recommend storing (1) gallon of water per day per person.

Okay, I'll just pop over to Wal-Mart and pick up a 730 gallon water tank...

Frankly if this hits worst-case levels, we're screwed :P
posted by Foosnark at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2005

A disaster-preparedness plan that allows for lack of food and water but fails to consider a lack of social order is worthless. Get the can opener and the first aid kit, sure, but better stock up on guns and ammo as well.
posted by SPrintF at 6:05 PM on October 7, 2005

The sky is falling.
posted by 517 at 6:05 PM on October 7, 2005

it was the 19-45 group that got it the hardest.

I could be wrong, here, but weren't they hit the hardest because it passed so quickly among soldiers? That is, wasn't the entire first string of Spanish Flu victims soldiers on ships and in hospitals? If so, it would make sense that the hardest-hit demographic would be 19-45-year-olds.

If avian flu broke out here, my guess is that travelers (especially frequent business travelers) and young kids (especially in daycares and large schools; also, especially in large, hub cities) would be hardest-hit.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:09 PM on October 7, 2005

Oh my god - "The deadly virus has killed 62 Asians in the last two years" - we better run for the hills... Forget wearing a seatbelt or cutting down on fast food, the effing pandemic's gonna kill us all...
posted by fellorwaspushed at 6:24 PM on October 7, 2005

I guess the fact that pandemics happen on fairly regular intervals means we should mock this rather than take it seriously?
posted by MillMan at 6:27 PM on October 7, 2005

Mock away, MillMan. Mock away.
posted by recurve at 6:39 PM on October 7, 2005

Considering the current atmosphere of scare mongering, absolutely.
posted by IronLizard at 6:54 PM on October 7, 2005

::presently planning placating possibly paranoid personal prognostications::
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:11 PM on October 7, 2005

Riiiiiight, IronLizard, except that in this "current atmosphere of scare mongering," it doesn't seem to be politicians that are singularly alerting people to the threat, but health officials in basically every international organization. Actually, the politicians are about a year late to the party.

So, what's it gonna be, people? Are the politicians scare-mongering or are they not doing enough for our safety?

Clearly, whatever the answer, it is their fault.
posted by billysumday at 7:12 PM on October 7, 2005

the worst part about this whole article is just how level headed and honest it is...the guy isnt some crazy loon, he is just being very honest. makes you kind of freak out. in fact, let me check, yes i am freaking out right now.
posted by stilgar at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2005

I have to admit that I'm worried, a bit, about this -- we're well overdue, our prep work is crap, and H5N1 has something that the Spanish Influenza (H1N1) can only dream about -- air travel.

Right now, though, there's only scattered evidence that H5N1 has infected humans, and none that there's a human-human transmission chain. But the fact that they've proven that the H1N1 was an avian flu that jumped is scary -- the big counterargument to a H5N1 pandemic is "there's no proof that avian flu strains can cross with virulence." There's solid evidence that H5N1 has jumped to pigs, and has swine-swine transmission, which is, gentically, 80% of the way to humans.

The kicker -- H5N1 is rather deadly to humans, for influzena. But right now, it's either very hard or impossible to get it from another infected human. That's the last jump, should it happen, H5N1 *will* rage through the world, just like every other human-human transmissible influenza virus. The big question: Will it make that leap with the current virulence?

If so, we are in deep trouble, and that's my reason for fear. H5N1, in humans, has proven to be very nasty once symptomatic, and if the symptomatic-to-asymptomatic ratio is common with other flu strains, it is one nasty motherfucker. If it jumps to human-human transmission, we're going to lose millions to it. The magic question is "how does this compare to 1918?" What evidence there is says "worse" -- but the evidence is scanty. As comparison, it is much more lethal than SARS, at least when you compare symptomatic to fatalities. It's possible that a large percentage of those affected will be asymptomatic, this would obviously drop the fatality rate dramatically.

As to modern medicine? If you're uninsured, you can't afford it, so that's a non-starter. We're certainly better at life support and critical pulmonary care, so that will help -- if you can get a bed. In a true pandemic, the hospitals will be overwhelmed.

Right now, there's no truly tested H5N1 vaccine, and there can't be, until it does make the jump to human transmission. Once that happens, it'll take time to make a vaccine, then make the millions of doses needed. The current attack strategy is "find an outbreak, nail everyone around it with Tamiflu, and pray." Problems: we may not see it in time, we don't have enough Tamiflu, the strategy is based on a 1:1.6 transmission rate, which is low, and well, prayer=hope=not a plan.
posted by eriko at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2005

you have to ask yourself if perhaps our system of living is just not feasible given natures determination to scourge us off the earth... we have too many people, not enough resources to go around, and the people that are well off do so by taking everything from the others. i would never want millions of people to die off, but if we don't start limiting our births and coming up with more sustainable practices nature is going to "solve" a lot of problems for us. i just don't think any of us are going to like the way nature takes care of these things.
posted by stilgar at 7:26 PM on October 7, 2005

Why would the pandemic continue for a year and not indefinitely? Why would it spontaneously fizzle out?
posted by 4easypayments at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2005

our kick ass micro-buddies the antibody
posted by stilgar at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2005

Well that settles it, I'm buying a gun. Should I get a 9mm or a 45?
posted by MillMan at 7:47 PM on October 7, 2005

nail everyone around it with Tamiflu, and pray.

isn't the particular flu strain in question resistant to Tamiflu?
posted by brandz at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2005

Really the idea is about being self-sufficient for awhile, which is prudent in any kind of disaster. We completed our emergency cache about a year ago, and I think we're self-sufficient for many weeks, at the very least.

And goddammit, why are bathtubs always overlooked in these planning resources? If something bad is breaking on the news, fuck running out for Evian, go fill your 60-gallon reservoir!
posted by rolypolyman at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2005

i supposed i'd actually have to clean my bathtub first.
posted by brandz at 8:06 PM on October 7, 2005

As to modern medicine? If you're uninsured, you can't afford it, so that's a non-starter.

Nothing a healthy dose of socialism couldn't fix, eh?
posted by Kwantsar at 8:09 PM on October 7, 2005

No, but if you don't have insurance, you don't even get to play in the hospital bed lottery.
posted by eriko at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2005

Alt F4 - Thank you!

fellorwaspushed - you're right, the mortality *rate* is greatly exagerated, given the uncounted numbers of infected.

eriko - If you're uninsured, you can't afford it, so that's a non-starter.

I weep again.

stilgar -c'mon, you're the leader of the fremen, buck up!

MillMan - 22LR or 45ACP depending on what you anticipate.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2005

i supposed i'd actually have to clean my bathtub first.

Then there's the toilet. Or a water purifying system and rain/pond/river water.
posted by stbalbach at 8:23 PM on October 7, 2005

I always wonder why anyone is surprised that we, as a species, are as expendable as we are. Isn't it the nature of the ecosystem to periodically renew its populations with more appropriate life forms? Things become extinct through the natural course of events. It's not surprising that we should slowly be facing the fact that OUR number may come up soon enough. Not that I relish the idea, but reality...she's a bitch!

Also, I was thinking about the idea of the digi-world in the event of this kind of pandemic. School could be replicated, with difficulty but entirely do-able, via the computer. Likewise, churches, social gatherings, some forms of business. The flip side of the deal would be that we might slowly begin to cringe at the mere thought of actually being the close proximity to someone from another clan.

Weird world.
posted by Griffins_posse at 8:34 PM on October 7, 2005

"in close proximity"...too weirded out to type correctly.
posted by Griffins_posse at 8:36 PM on October 7, 2005

"I could be wrong, here, but weren't [people aged 20-40] hit the hardest [in 1918-1919] because it passed so quickly among soldiers?"

That was probably a small part of it, but if you look at the nationwide data (which didn't have that many troops in it per capita), there was a definite surge in deaths in that age group. It's thought to be the result of a "cytokine storm", an over-reaction to the flu that gets set off in the bodies of the healthiest and strongest. For info, data, and a graph, check out this answer by yours truly just two days ago.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2005

Actually, it's not really a matter of an ecosystem renewing its populations with more appropriate life forms. For example, certain fish have been here for millions of years. Bacteria and other microorganims for billions of years. Species evolve, they don't suddenly go belly up. "Nature" doesn't give a shit about who survives and who dies. If a nasty virus comes along and kills 50 million of us, it's because the virus did what any successful organism does - finds a way to thrive. Talk of what "nature" wants is no different than talk of what "god" wants.
posted by billysumday at 8:50 PM on October 7, 2005

We've got nothing to worry about, folks. Bush says he has it all under control.

Oh wait, actually he said just the opposite.
posted by emelenjr at 8:50 PM on October 7, 2005

I just cleaned and oiled my Ruger. I've got a box of 100 rounds. I think I'll be fine.
posted by wfrgms at 10:27 PM on October 7, 2005

Okay, I'll just pop over to Wal-Mart and pick up a 730 gallon water tank...

I can dig your sarcasm, Foosnark, but wouldn't it be kick in the butt, if come the middle of next year, you berate yourself (for the Nth time) for not making those trips to Wal-mart and spending the $500 measly dollars now sitting worthlessly in your bank account as you thirstily dream of water...
posted by fairmettle at 10:49 PM on October 7, 2005

I saw on the BBC that they think Tamiflu will be useless in any upcomming epidemic. This is because the chinese farmers started feeding tamiflu to all their birds.
It didnt take long for a mutant version of the flu to become dominant.
posted by Iax at 12:15 AM on October 8, 2005

I take the pandemic threat as seriously as anybody, but I don't get why we would expect electricity and water to go out, unless the virus takes down everybody who could operate the utilities. Even at a 33% infection and 50% kill rate that seems unlikely to me.
posted by weston at 2:18 AM on October 8, 2005

Because it takes people to fix problems. If there's a storm and the power goes out there will be fewer technicians to get it running again. Or if some peice of equipment burns out and needs to be replaced. Or any of the myriad problems that inevitably come up with complex and old infrastructure.
posted by recurve at 3:41 AM on October 8, 2005

At this point, there is no known vaccine for this strain.

Actually, Sanofi-Pasteur has two in the works. The first required four times as much antigen as usual, thus making it difficult to culture in the quantities required. There's some information here.

And the bird virus is now know to have been the cause of the pandemic of 1918.

Not quite. The H5N1 strain is similar to the H1N1 pandemic strain of 1918 in that it initially circulated in birds and it has some molecular similarities. The NYT editorial has a good comparison.

I saw on the BBC that they think Tamiflu will be useless in any upcomming epidemic. This is because the chinese farmers started feeding tamiflu to all their birds.

I didn't see/read the BBC report but I'm quite sure it is amantadine (commercially known as symmetrel) that you're referring to. Chinese chicken farmers have been suppressing outbreaks of H5N1 among their chicken flocks for years by dosing them with amantadine, it was revealed earlier this year. Of the four antivirals for flu, only oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is active against H5N1. There was a report earlier this week that Hongkong microbiologists had found an H5N1 strain resistent to Tamiflu but that was later found to be a misunderstanding/bad report.
posted by docgonzo at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2005

Laurie Garrett: A $3.9-Billion First Strike
posted by homunculus at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2005

Again, here we are with influenza talk. The flu is the new meme. What gives?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:09 PM on October 8, 2005


Because this is damned serious business. A new flu poses a MUCH greater threat to our existence than terrorism.
posted by drstrangelove at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2005

Life saving trivia. I heartily recommend saving this information.

1) It has recently been determined that most pulmonary illnesses are spread by hand contamination, not coughing or sneezing as previously believed. If you are out in public or around those who are during an outbreak, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer six times a day will reduce your chance of catching flu by 80%. If there is obvious contamination, use soap and water. Antiseptic soap is not significantly more effective than ordinary soap in this regard. Consciously force yourself not to touch your face in public until you have sanitized your hands.

2) The worst public sources for air and surface contamination are public restrooms and restaurants. Avoid them. Sanitize telephone handsets and often touched surfaces in work areas, especially doorknobs. Parts of automobile interiors can also be cleaned routinely.

3) There are several known effective OTC anti-virals, and several more that may help. Some non-toxic metals are powerful antiseptics and can be used for decontamination, such as the calcium found in grapefruit seed extract (available in health food stores). A few drops can disinfect a quart of water. A tablespoon can also be added to a humidifier for an air and room surface disinfectant. Larger amounts could be added to a swamp cooler to help sanitize an entire house. Even though you cannot eliminate contamination, you significantly improve your odds by reducing it.

4) Other metals are not directly anti-viral, but inhibit viral reproduction in some circumstances. Silver and zinc in the proper form and place can have this effect in the human body. Colloidal silver in a nasal spray, for one, and Cold-Eeze brand throat lozenges for zinc. Cold-Eeze is unique in this way, as its patented form of zinc is readily uptaken into the mucous membranes, unlike most zinc supplements. With FDA approval, it can state that it lessens severity and duration of colds and flu. Perhaps it can do more.

5) Most colds and flus reproduce in the sinuses and trachea, so it is important to keep them a less friendly environment for viruses. The use of ordinary saline nasal spray to reduce large build ups of mucous removes breeding medium. NOTE: avian flu is different, in that it can reproduce in several other organs, including the liver.

6) Another newly discovered trick that may work is ordinary store-bought cranberry juice, which has been determined to inhibit cellular adhesion by several viruses, in quantity. It is unknown if it would work for avian flu, but drinking copious amounts as a possible prophalaxis should not be too much an inconvenience, if that is all you've got to protect yourself with.

7) There will undoubtedly be shortages of several items once an outbreak has occurred. Surgical masks, protective glasses, latex gloves, sanitary wipes and rubbing alcohol may all become scarce, so it is not unreasonable to stock up now. Substitutes such as grain alcohol, sunglasses, etc. are almost as good. Remember that gloves only keep the contamination off of your skin. In turn they must be assumed to be contaminated and either cleaned or disposed safely.

8) The vaccination priority that we are used to has been changed because of the severity of this illness. Instead of giving injections to the elderly, infirm and very young, the emphasis will be on school-aged children (the largest human vector of the disease), and in outbreak areas. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with traditional quarantine measures, as they can be unexpectedly harsh. In time of an epidemic, the Health Department can be authoritarian.

9) The avian flu also has a large number of animal vectors, and until these are determined for certain, it would be wise to avoid large assemblages of animals and birds, even dogs and cats. Already, some birds have been identified that can carry the disease for great distances without immediately dying. If domestic mammals do the same, it may amplify the contamination.

10) Flu vaccine takes from several days to two weeks for optimum immunity. This immunity may last perhaps six months or more in a healthy, young adult, and as little as two to three months in the elderly. A severe flu epidemic usually appears in two waves, and can last from one to two years. Therefore, a single shot may not be enough.

11) Symptomology of avian flu so far seems to indicate that death occurs very quickly, perhaps within 72 hours, and is often from blood and fluid build-up in the lungs. Though this sounds morbid, some people may die in public and it is important not to touch the body. An incapacitated person may spew large amounts of infectious fluids about. Do not attempt to render significant first aid, instead call 911.

12) Traditionally, government has been slow to react to epidemics, often waiting too long before instituting strong restrictions on the public. However, this can be deadly serious, even if ineffective. There may be circumstances where armed guards are used, and response to public panic may be severe.

13) It is unlikely that this winter's cold and flu season will be the avian flu. However, these weaker diseases should be your final warning as to your probability of catching the avian flu. If, in cold and flu season, you practice step #1 above and still catch either disease, you need to strongly reevaluate hygiene in your environment.
posted by kablam at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

62 people in the last two years? why,
that's only 8064 times less than the number of people killed in China by car accidents
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:13 PM on October 9, 2005

Thats 62 out of 112 infected. Perhaps if you think about it for a little bit, you would realize why your comparison is dumb.
posted by c13 at 10:42 PM on October 9, 2005

62 out of 112 infected does not signify the mortality rates will be anywhere near that for transmission. The (apparently now gone explained quite clearly that even the most virulent strains have to drop below a certain level to be able to survive within a given population. Fatality rates will not be anywhere near this if this pandemic happens (my guess slightly below 1918 levels in worst case scenerios).

This strain of bird flu has not recombinined with a human flu. This doesn't mean that it won't or hasn't happened already in some backwards village, but migratory birds that carry this will not hit USA. Until it recombines (which could happen now, tomorrow, 20 years from now, never) we have nothing to worry about. Recombination is not well understood enough to expect this to happen this year, we can only say that if it does recombine it will be bad.
posted by geoff. at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2005

Thats 62 out of 112 infected. Perhaps if you think about it for a little bit, you would realize why your comparison is dumb.

I thought about it. Here's my conclusion. 62 people in the last two years is still 8064 times less than the number of people killed in China by car accidents.

It's also 187 times less than the number of people killed by smog in Ontario.

Admittedly, the automobile is a less efficient virus than H5N1. But still far more devastating by a certain order of magnitude. Of course, no one will be making oodles of money any time soon in trying to find a cure for car culture.

The possibility of a superbug killing all of us in a month is the price we pay for normal bugs not killing a few of us tomorrow. Maybe we should stop pumping livestock (and ourselves) full of antibiotics, if we're so concerned.
posted by poweredbybeard at 1:08 PM on October 11, 2005

Maybe we should stop pumping livestock (and ourselves) full of antibiotics

I don't think this would change anything w/ regard to potential viral infections.

62 people in the last two years is still 8064 times less than the number of people killed in China by car accidents.

Right. So, statistically, in the last year, it's been significantly smaller threat than the automobile. However, if it recombines, and many of the world's health officials seem to think this is quite likely, even at death/infection rates "slightly below 1918 levels in worst case scenerios", it would seem very likely to kill more people in china than 500,000, given it killed that many in the less populous and less densely populated US in 1918.

And the logic of ignoring that possibility is almost as silly if, back in the 1940s or 1950s or so, we'd said? "Seatbelts? Auto safety? Pshaw. More people die of right now than car wrecks. " Actually, the auto industry problably said something like that, for a while...
posted by weston at 1:59 PM on October 15, 2005

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