How To Survive a Modern Catastrophic Pandemic
Often times, we think of pandemics being that of injections of manufactured Hollywood hyperbole used for the sake of selling movie theater tickets. The CDC militarized as some big-time actor slaps on a helmet and full hazmat gear. The labored, yet panicked talking coming through a version of Darth Vader’s mask. It all seems too unreal, too unlikely. Until, of course, it doesn’t. Many people wouldn’t know how to survive a pandemic if one happened. And that isn’t because surviving a pandemic requires extreme prepper measures, it is because most people have never considered a pandemic as a likely threat, just something that makes for great TV. However, a little bit of knowledge, as well as a little expenditure, can offer up huge prepper returns when it comes to surviving a pandemic.
Epidemic vs Pandemic
What is the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? Believe it or not, our pandemic survival guide gets started with understanding the definitions of associated terms; and the meaning of pandemic. We often hear the terms outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. But what’s in a name? Well, the order I listed essentially lays out the associated concerns. An outbreak is simply an illness taking root in few or more peoples. The key to the term outbreak to be applicable is when an illness or disease affects more than the normal sum of people affected annually, or, expected to be affected. One person getting a rare disease could be considered an outbreak. The term outbreak, of course, is often abused by the media. “Flu outbreaks” are often used as headline news right around the time of year annual flu shots are ready. In many cases, the news is just attempting to draw in eyeballs. When it comes to exact definitions, however, the term outbreak is often not misapplied. It is simply just misleading for purposes of eyeballs.
An outbreak could be the start of something more scalable and more deadly, such as an epidemic. When the outbreak begins a rampant infectious disease uprising among a herd of people, it becomes an epidemic. And epidemics are to be taken seriously, depending on what the infectious disease is. Epidemics are essentially the breeding grounds for deadly pandemics.
So, what is a pandemic?
A pandemic is an infectious disease running amok globally. Pandemics contaminate, kill, spread, on worldwide scales. Pandemics are often spread globally due to man’s propensity for air travel, ship travel, and even high-speed train travel. When an infectious disease infects via airborne saliva, typically caused by early onset coughing and sneezing that’s misdiagnosed, a small plane cabin becomes a breeding ground for new infections. And then those infected persons start sneezing and coughing in train stations and at coffee shops in New York City, causing a pandemic fallout effect. Did you know that even ticks can cause a pandemic?
Understanding the difference between epidemic and pandemic and outbreak is the key to understanding when the time for grabbing a bug out bag or hunkering down in your own home is. Knowing the meaning of pandemic helps you assess actual relevant risks.
For many people, the idea of a global pandemic is too far-fetched to take seriously. Therefore, how to survive a pandemic is the last thing on their mind. Prepping is certainly not about panicking, it is quite the opposite, however, we should not confuse panic and prepping. Prepping is simply understanding that some level of threat exists and taking small precautions that could, in turn, help you survive a worse case pandemic scenario.
To understand this, you must understand that pandemics aren’t new. They’ve happened. They’ve killed and maimed. And they constantly threaten our world.
Without question, the modern world’s most deadly pandemic on record is HIV / AIDS. The AIDS pandemic rooted itself in Africa in the 1960’s. By the early 1970’s, the disease was silently rooting itself in the United States and Haiti. Some parts of Africa still show infection rates of nearly 30% for pregnant women. Unlike typical pandemics which are airborne, AIDS is a bloodborne pandemic infection. Modern sexual education protocols have helped the western world gain a handle on the disease, but it remains an ongoing pandemic.
A number of plagues have caused extremely dismal sections of world history.
In 430 BC, the plague of Athens killed thousands of Greek soldiers. Many scientists believe this was the result of Typhoid fever.
From 165 to 180 AD, the Antonine Plague, which was possibly smallpox, killed upwards of 5 million. This was caused by infected returning soldiers to the Italian peninsula.
The first bubonic plague on record occurred from 541 to 750. It was derived in Egypt. It was responsible for 10,000 global deaths per day, amounting to nearly half the world’s total population.
From around 1347 to nearly 1353, Black Death killed 75 million people. This same plague would later return to Europe several hundred years later and cause catastrophic death.
In 1855, China was struck by the third plague pandemic. 10 million people from China to India lost their lives. The plague eventually found its way to San Francisco in 1900.
Influenzia pandemic: There have been a number of global flu pandemics, unfortunately, the media has, at times, pushed narratives that were mostly conjuring and fear-mongering. This has led many to take flu pandemics much less seriously. But there have been some deadly ones. Flu pandemics can be scary because the version of the flu often changes, which can lead to worsening, unexpected forms of illness, particularly when discussing the potency of the flu. An influenza pandemic can be scary, as has been the case with a few of these pandemic examples.
In 1968, the Hong Kong Flu pandemic, also known as H3N2, killed 34,000 American living in the United States. H2N2, or the Asian Flu, was responsible for 70,000 United State’s death in 1957.
The flu can most certainly be deadly, however, the media tends to push embellished narratives leading many to distrust pandemic warnings. The modern swine flu pandemic is an example of a flu pandemic that was heavily covered by the media but never seemed to do the damage relayed to us. The mortality rate of swine flu proved extremely low at under 5%. And vaccines were heavily pushed during this period of time, leading many to believe that swine flu was simply a prop to sell more vaccines. The swine flu vaccine has long been regarded as not fully-effective and inconsistent with results.
Smallpox is an extremely dangerous and infectious disease caused by the variola virus. At the end of the 18th century, a smallpox pandemic ravaged Europe, killing just under 500,000 people. There are upwards of 50 million new cases diagnosed per year. Smallpox vaccines are heavily distributed.
A not much-discussed pandemic killer, Typhus has, throughout history, killed millions, including many of Napolean’s army as they began their assault on Russia in the early 1800s.
Ebola received worldwide coverage as recently as 2014 when the first case of Ebola reached the United States, prompting massive fears of an Ebola pandemic, a narrative heavily explored by the major media conglomerates. Ebola came to the United States via a man who had recently traveled to Liberia. The man died on October 8th in Texas. But the fear-mongering amounted to little more than a few random cases for the United States. However, worldwide, Ebola is a savage killer pandemic. That same version which infected on a few in the United States killed over 10,000 in Africa. Ebola is a major concern these days, media fear-mongering aside.
Malaria is a widely known infectious disease which rarely affects those in the United States. Though, at one time it was super prevalent here. Once known as “Roman fever,” malaria killed off large portions of the Roman army. The United States Civil War soldiers were also infected at a high rate with malaria. It hasn’t been relevant in the United States since the 1930’s.
There are a number of other pandemics, including the Zika virus pandemic, that are worth researching. The term “pandemic” tends to be used rather liberally by the media, making it difficult to surmise the actual threat. As a prepper, however, small preparations prevent big disasters.
Nipah virus (NiV)
Though rare, Nipah virus has a mortality rate of 70%. Nipah virus is considering a zoonosis which can wreak havoc on both humans and animals. Pigs and fruit bats have been commonly linked to the illness. When Nipah virus outbreaks happen, local citizens are often warned to avoid fruit that has fallen to the ground and might appear to have small bite marks in it.
The Nipah virus simulates the flu at first but eventually leads to the more severe brain swelling condition, encephalitis. Nipah virus was first discovered in 1998 in Malaysia. It has killed under 300 people in total over the years, but its high mortality rate is something health officials fear could be a recipe for disaster if the disease were to break out of localized regions.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne illness that while rare in humans, can be deadly. Those people who survive Eastern Equine Encephalitis are commonly left with brain injuries.
The virus is most typically found in horses. Horses commonly suffer brain injuries as a result of infection. Humans typically show symptoms of chills, fever, and vomiting between 4 and 10 days of infection. Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreaks, such as the 2008-09 Brazil outbreak, are lethal. The Brazil Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak had a 72% mortality rate.
In the United States, Eastern Equine Encephalitis is most commonly found in Florida on an annual basis. Though, even that’s rare with 5 to 10 cases per year. A recent case of Eastern equine encephalitis virus was reported in Western Michigan.
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Potential Pandemics: How Exposed Are We?
For many, reading the above pandemic examples simply doesn’t resonate. We live in a modern bubble of medical advances and safety nets. The idea of a plague taking root in our modern world seems incredibly unlikely. However, that’s far from the truth. Pandemics continually occurr every several hundred years at most. And often times, we forget that HIV is a pandemic. If you were wrong place and time in the 1980’s, you became an unfortunate victim.
A current plague (at least at the time of writing this pandemic survival guide) is the Madagascaran black death plague which is starting to take hold. We’d list this black plague as a potential pandemic. Some scientists now believe black death plague could come to America and Europe and become a pandemic.
A smallpox pandemic is certainly not a far-fetched concern considering countries such as North Korea reportedly store smallpox biological weapons.
The media pushes the narrative of Zika virus, however, Zika tends to be most deadly to pregnant women’s unborn children. At least according to the CDC. The common person would only experience flu symptoms. The media hyped up Zika, but it ended up having little affect on the United States.
The risks of potential pandemics are real, history shows us such, as do our modern surroundings.
How To Survive A Pandemic
The zombie pandemic is on. Smallpox has been released by North Korea throughout several United State’s cities. A woman carrying Ebola dined at your local Dennys. In all actuality, a zombie pandemic is mostly that of gaming fantasy or TV shows like The Walking Dead. But we can learn a lot from the fallout resulting from science fiction zombie pandemic plotlines.
Many pandemic survival strategies revolve around normal prepper survival strategies.
First and formost, you need the best survival water filter you can find. You shouldn’t pay a ton, as my linked list will show you. But if a pandemic enters your regional bubble, you want to make sure you aren’t drinking from compromised municipality sources. Cities chlorinate water to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases, but that doesn’t mean the system will work properly under the duress of a foreign or domestic attack. This would be the number one way to nefariously spread a pandemic. Remember, under pandemic conditions, you may not be able to just trot out the door to the grocery store for bottled waters. Have bottled waters on hand, but make sure you can additionally filter water until you are sure the system is not compromised. A pandemic means an infectious illness is spreading, you need to remain safe until you know exactly how that’s happening.
Food is important. Long term food storage is essential. It is the second most important prepper concern next to water. You can buy long-term food storage kits (check out my prepper food supply guide), or learn how to deal with canned food expiration dates. All the same, make sure you can eat.
If ever a scenario could be called SHTF, it is a pandemic. And unfortunately, SHTF scenarios are a calling for the bottoms of society to rise up and seek out opportunity. Criminal activity is sure to thrive during a pandemic. Right now, some of mankind’s worst is preparing for an opportunity to loot and kill during the next disaster. I suggest you read my best SHTF gun article. Get training. Know how to use one. Make sure you have ammo on hand.
Pandemic Survival Kit
Beyond the primal concerns of food and water and self-defense, you need to have a few cheap supplies on hand that will help you endure a catastrophic pandemic. There is something on Amazon called a Pandemic Quickkit that might be right up your alley, or, you could just build you own. The quickkit actually has three units with goggles, zipper-enclosed coveralls, bootie shoes and more. These are very basic supplies. You are always better off building your own kit. That said, you could start with a basic Pandemic quickkit and slowly ramp up more precise supplies.
Another option is the Pandemic Flu kit sold on Amazon.
Here’s a Pandemic supply list
You will need a mask. The air is the enemy when it comes to pandemics. A mask helps to quarantine your vital lungs. Breathing in infected saliva from coughs and sneezes is how many plagues spread effortlessly.
Have an N95 respirator mask on hand. Here’s an N95 mask with great reviews on Amazon.
Medical gloves would be a must-have. Remember, bacteria is the enemy when it comes to pandemics. Bacteria can fly through the air, it can rest on a table’s counter. When and if you suspect the potential of an infected area, you’d need to wear medical gloves such as these Nitril exam gloves on Amazon.
Viruses notoriously infect people through their eye cavities. Covering and protecting your eyes whenever in a situation with even a miniscule chance of being infected is essential. Here is some good, affordable goggle on Amazon that would be perfect for a bug out bag. If you were to need to bug out, you’d not want to be without goggles.
You should have several Tyvec suits for yourself and the family. A Tyvec suit can completely seal your body from any bacteria entering. Here’s an affordable Tyvec suit with good reviews on Amazon.
You should most definitely have antiseptic wipes on hand to allow you to quickly disinfect surfaces. Most of us already have those, or know exactly where to get them. While I don’t advocate the daily use of antiseptic wipes, I do think they serve a protective purpose under the extreme conditions of pandemic conditions.
Steramine sanitizer tablets, available here on Amazon, go further than antiseptic wipes. They can sanitize food processor units, refrigerators, stoves, counters, etc. Just one tablet can create an entire gallon of sterilized potion for use.
This list is really just a base list. There are lots of more prepper supplies you may need, particularly if you need to bug out. I suggest you check out my bug out bag essentials list. A lot of those items would be relevant during a pandemic.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.