Flu pandemics can affect a significant portion of the population before a government health agency even realizes the cases of a rapidly spreading illness are connected. Even a mild to moderate level pandemic can spiral out of control quickly during (or after) a SHTF event.
During normal times, a flu pandemic has the capability to kill tens of thousands of people over the course of a few short weeks or months. During a long-term disaster, the death toll could register in the millions in about the same amount of time.
The flu spreads quite easily from one person to the next, typically via being exposed to the cough or a sneeze of an infected person. A flu pandemic has the potential to spread around the planet in as little as six to nine months.
If a flu pandemic is part of the domino effect after a SHTF scenario, the spread may be slower because air travel might no longer be an option. But, the death toll as the flu pandemic spreads could likely be higher due to the lack of emergency medical care.
What Causes a Flu Pandemic?
Although a flu pandemic would spread in the same manner as a seasonal flu, more folks exposed to a sick person would in turn get sick themselves because only a rare few people would have an immunity built up against a pandemic strain.
This is why flu shot are created annually to make them hardy against new strains of the virus. By the time a viable shot could be created to deal with a flu pandemic, the death toll will already be devastating.
Each year, outbreaks of both influenza A and influenza B viruses occur. These outbreaks are caused by even small changes to the existing virus that allow them to be immune to either existing shots or a natural immunity built up over time due to previous bouts with the flu.
Only influenza A can cause a pandemic. When one or both of the surface proteins in influenza A experience a significant change, an entirely new virus (one that it is unlikely that anyone around the globe is immune to) is created, and conditions are ripe for either a flu epidemic or a flu pandemic.
What Is the Difference Between a Flu Epidemic and a Flu Pandemic?
An epidemic is an outbreak of a specific illness or disease that occurs at the same time and spreads to neighboring communities or regions. A pandemic can begin as an epidemic but the terminology changes not necessarily as the death toll rises, but as the outbreak spreads beyond a regional one to a statewide, nationwide, or global emergency health situation.
Flu Pandemic History and Dangers
During the last century, flu pandemics caused millions of not only tragic deaths, but significant economic upheaval and disruptions in society. Prepping for a flu pandemic must involve more than emergency medical materials stockpiling.
Because our world is so interconnected and co-dependent, both the economic and social impact is likely to be huge. The SARS outbreak in 2003 is a prime example of the overall havoc a pandemic can cause in our modern world. The disruption was felt across most business sectors, and the high cost of treating the illness, was felt in countries far beyond the outbreak regions.
While many scientific experts agree that another flu pandemic on a global scale is going to happen, they remain quite unsure of when it will occur.
The largest and most well-documented incidents of flu pandemics happened with the 1918 outbreak of the H1N1 – or Spanish flu, the H2N2 Asian flu in 1957, and again in 1968 with the Hong Kong or H3N2 flu.
The most recent flu pandemic occurred in 2009 when the swine flu (H1N1) killed approximately 575,000 people. Although the bird flu (H5N1) does not easily infect people, it still has been causing alarm for more than a decade due to its extremely lethal nature.
Governments around the world are taking the threat of a flu pandemic so seriously that not only are plans and checklists available for families, but also for businesses and governmental operations at all levels.
How To Prepare For a Flu Pandemic
Non-Medical Stockpiling Essentials
During a flu pandemic, you should not expose yourself to the population outside of your home unless it is an absolute matter of life and death. Getting to a hospital or store will be an extremely dangerous proposition. You would most likely be exposed to individuals with the easily transmitted flu and/or marauders who are using the SHTF event to steal… or worse.
Store shelves will be bare within hours, anyway. Hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients – all of which are most likely suffering from the illness you are desperately trying to avoid.
Most government preparedness plans advise you to keep enough food, water, and medicine on hand to last three days to two weeks. We have all lived through a regular flu season – it is likely you should stockpile essentials that would allow you to remain indoors for up to three months to avoid becoming afflicted with the deadly illness.
Shelf Stable Food Items to Stockpile for a Flu Pandemic:
|Canned meat||Canned vegetables|
|Canned beans||Canned soups|
|Powdered milk||Peanut butter|
|Bottled water||Comfort food like cookies, candy, and pop|
|Canned or powdered juice||Baby formula|
Basic Emergency Supplies:
|Flashlights||Batteries in all sizes|
|Pet and livestock food||Manual can openers|
|Toilet paper||Emergency radio|
|Walkie Talkies||Lime – although unpleasant, you should expect to deal with dead bodies during a pandemic|
|Money – cash but also bartering items and precious metals||Comfort items like books, board games, etc.|
Medical Supplies to Stockpile
Getting an extra supply of prescription medications is highly recommended, but will likely be difficult to do. If you are able to legally acquire additional medications for chronic conditions, expect to pay for them out of pocket, unless you have a truly flexible insurance company.
Many preppers stockpile fish and livestock medications to substitute for prescription drugs during a long-term disaster. If you choose to go this stockpiling route just for an emergency medical situation where professional medical help is not available, please research dosages wisely – getting the amount wrong could be deadly. Even getting the dosage amount correct does not ensure safe usage.
Stockpiling natural alternatives to prescription medication – herbs, roots, flowers, and “weeds” is yet another avenue preppers pursue to help guard the health of their loved ones during a flu pandemic or other SHTF doomsday disaster.
Simply because a “medicine” is natural does not mean it is safe, has no side effects, or is allergic reaction-free for everyone. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any natural remedy as a medicine.
Always check with your doctor before starting – or stockpiling, natural ingredients to use as medication or holistic alternatives, for human consumption.
Health and Medicine Essentials to Stockpile for a Flu Pandemic:
|Prescription medications||Medical tools and supplies: blood pressure monitoring equipment, thermometers, stethoscope, glucose meters, etc.|
|Medical skills – learn basic to preferably advanced first aid, and communicable disease protocols||Rubbing alcohol|
|Peroxide||Distilled white vinegar|
|Vodka – for disinfecting and making tinctures for natural remedies||Over the counter cough syrups, pain killers, and fever reducers|
Flu Pandemic Work Planning
Staying home from work is vital to your efforts to remain healthy and not carry germs home to your family. During a flu pandemic, it can take days to weeks before businesses and public agencies temporarily close or are ordered to do so by the government.
You must learn now if the business or public agency has a flu epidemic and pandemic plan worked into traditional sick leave and excused absence policies. If your place of employment has not addressed such an issue, relentlessly urge them to create a policy and discuss the possibility of telecommuting during a flu pandemic, as well.
If your efforts are not successful, find as many ways as possible to avoid close human contact as much as possible. Converse via email or a virtual go to meeting style group gathering instead of putting multiple people in close quarters.
Wear a mask over your face and nose to work – do not worry about looking silly. Staying healthy and alive and keeping your family in that same favored condition is all that matters.
Carry antibacterial waterless wash and handi-wipes with you. The doorknobs, bathrooms, and shared office machines can become a hotbed of contamination.
Consider wearing medical gloves – and still cleaning surfaces before touching them. Ideally, make you own antibacterial liquid that can be poured into both a spray and squeeze bottle to use when you absolutely must leave your home.
If you have a child who leaves the home for schooling, follow the same steps as noted above to determine whether or not a pandemic flu policy exists and to help safeguard the children from germs.
Teach your children to cover their coughs, wash their hands with warm soap and water frequently, to never share food or drink, and to use tissues when they sneeze. They should also learn how germs are transmitted so they can help avoid other children and adults who could be sick and are coughing and sneezing at school.
Pulling your child out of school and having them instead attend an online charter school or homeschooling them requires paperwork being filled out and sent to the school. Having a copy of such paperwork and a plan in place to deal with school absences to avoid truancy charges, should be put into the works now – not after disaster strikes.
How (and Why) to Set Up a Medical Quarantine Area in Your Home
Designate a spot in the bugin or bugout location or directly connected to it, to serve as a medical clinic and a quarantine area. This room should be as far away from food preparation and sleeping areas as possible.
Ideally, there should be a separate entrance door leading into the medical clinic and another door or airtight as possible barrier, separating the clinic from the quarantine room. The separate door will allow any loved ones coming to stay at the home to remain isolated from the rest of the household until you are sure they are flu symptom free.
The exterior door also permits you to remove any dead bodies without going through the home and potentially spreading germs.
Medical Quarantine Room Location
- If you have a basement with a walkout door that can be adequately heated and ventilated, this could be a serviceable medical clinic and quarantine space.
- An attached garage that can be heated is also an excellent choice for use as a medical clinic and separated quarantine space.
- A camper, motor home, and even a tent depending upon the time of year or the climate, could also be used for a quarantine room.
Quarantine and Laundry Disposal Tips
Laundry will need to be dealt with on a regular basis when loved ones are being housed in either a medical clinic or quarantine room.
There are only two options when it comes to dealing with soiled clothes, medical gowns, and bedding: burning them or cleaning them. You have two basic options to deal with soiled clothing, bedding, and towels: wash them or burn them.
Soiled fabrics must be washed in hot water to ensure the removal of germs. Do not take soiled linens and clothing inside the home. Put a wash tub, plenty of disinfectant laundry soap, and thick disposable rubber gloves in both the medical clinic and quarantine room to clean any material that is not being carried directly outdoors to be burnt.
The loved ones in the medical clinic and quarantine room are going to have to go to the bathroom. If a traditional bathroom is not available, set up composting commodes inside each room. This can be as basic as a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat attachment or a camping composting commode.
Once filled, the waste should be burnt, never carried back inside the home. Cleaning the buckets (or you could stockpile many and simply burn the buckets, also) or commode will require a strong disinfectant and the person conducting the task adorned in thick rubber gloves, a face mask, and even safety goggles to avoid exposure to infected bacteria and germs.
Stockpile a lot of water and/or handi-wipes in the medical clinic and quarantine area so the sick loved ones can be kept as clean as possible.
Stockpile antibacterial soap and as many sponges or throw away wipes as possible to keep down the amount of contaminated laundry that must be dealt with during the flu pandemic.
There is an even chance that not everyone in your family will survive the flu pandemic, that’s the cold hard truth of it. Burying your loved one may not be a viable option. If you go this route because the body might need to remain indoors for several days before going outdoors is safe.
This is where the agricultural lime comes in. The lime will help prevent the stench of decomposition and deter bugs from getting at the body. The body should be wrapped in plastic before it is move outdoors for burial.
Could the soil become contaminated because of the burial? That is a very real possibility. Cremation is the best way to avoid the possible contamination during a SHTF pandemic.
During a flu pandemic, you should not expect or rely upon the powder grid remaining functional throughout the entire ordeal. The federal government does have a plan to address concerns about critical infrastructure during a pandemic, but it has not yet been forced to be put into practice.
When prepping for a flu pandemic (or any type of pandemic or long-term disaster) do not rely upon or expect modern amenities to be fully functional, and bet on them alone for a heating, cooling, or cooking.
When developing a flu pandemic plan, base it on living off stockpiled energy sources and/or living out the ordeal in an off grid manner.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.