The ABC news report last night that a 7-year old Chinese girl has contracted Avian flu in Beijing, nearly 750 miles from Shanghai – the source of the outbreak- ought to send chills down the spine of every sentient being. Though we don’t know exactly how she contracted the disease, whether from a distant wild bird or human – this we do know- this virus is evolving even as I write.
If we soon learn the virus has fully mutated to the highly pathological H5N1 form, and a global pandemic may be imminent what do you do? Of course, the first reaction (dumb!) of many will be denial: ‘It’s just a flu for cripes’ sakes!’, or ‘Look, the government is hyping it to try and get us under control!’ or: ‘I ain’t doin’ nuthin’ until I actually see people in my neighborhood getting’ sick!’
Devoid of any knowledge of the Spanish Flu Pandemic – which killed over 50 million over 1918-19- it is probably human nature to treat any flu outbreak as ‘no biggie’ but that could be a fatal error. I saw what my wife endured, with H3N2 flu and it was perhaps only one or two more days (unless she recovered) before I’d have had to rush her to an ER.
In the case of Avian H5N1 Flu, you'll not likely have weeks to endure and recover, but maybe a day or two. In that time you or a loved one will know if you or your loved one(s) will live or die. And bear in mind here, hospitals will be overrun and switchboards clogged, so there will be little they can do once hordes of Avian-flu infected people begin pouring in. This is also why a Will is essential for any Avian flu planning as well and I will go into that in the next blog.
What do you do when no one is yet ill but the Avian flu is rapidly spreading? First, note a huge difference between the H3N2 outbreak last year and a future Avian flu is that in the former one could still make multiple runs to the supermarket, and supplies didn’t run out. There were only limited numbers of the severely ill, perhaps 10,000 in a given community. This will not be so if Avian flu strikes the U.S. and millions of severe cases emerge within very short time spans. (Refer to the highly pathological effects, symptoms listed in the previous blog post)
Then, multiple runs will be made on every major supermarket, corner grocery and even 7-11s as the outbreak takes down hundreds of thousands in the first week. So you can almost bet that will mean scarcity of grocery supplies within days. Don't be in the position of trying to build up your supplies, food stores when everyone else is, unless you don't mind getting stuck with Kibbles 'n Bits, lima beans and lemons. The cautious move then is to begin (gradually) stockpiling food, water, etc. as soon as the CDC confirms human- to- human transmission of the H5N1 flu. Even if this is in Asia! So yes, that means you set to work BEFORE the first case is confirmed in the U.S. Bear in mind here that this thing can and will be transmitted at the speed of modern jet flight - so after you hear the human-human transmission is verified in China, it may only be a day - perhaps 2 or 3 at most, before the first U.S. case shows up. When that announcement is made by the health authorities, look for all hell to break loose!
The Y2K scare, though bogus, did provide an insight into how much food to cache. You are basically looking at a minimum of perhaps 3 months in isolation (with little or no gov't help) and possibly local quarantines, once the flu strikes. Obviously, with runs on supermarkets the rule, there’ s little room for mathematical error. You begin by stocking as many diverse canned goods as possible: tuna, salmon, Spam, pineapple, chicken, beans, corn, spinach, whatever your family can go with and over a fairly long time. (In the next blog I will discuss cooking options, even if there’s no electric.)
How much to stockpile? That begins with the size of your household. Let’s say there are three people: 2 parents and one child. You will likely need (daily) the equivalent of 2 gallons of fresh water, and eight cans of tuna (or 4 cans tuna, 4 cans Spam) and three cans of corn (or three cans of beans, or pineapples). The sheer volume of stocked food is also another reason why it’s ridiculous to try and grab everything needed once the flu lands in your area. By then, you’ll only be able to get the dregs! So, what you’re likely looking at is a 2-3 week time interval to try to collect all the canned goods, water you estimate you will need.
Btw, that implies having a manual can opener – since electricity can’t be assumed to remain unaffected!
Re: water, remember to fill any bathtubs as well, since if the water ceases to be available (remember it depends on pumping which depends on electricity) you will still be able to flush the toilet. Use the available water filled in bathtubs and in any other containers you can find to flush toilets. Save the purchased bottled water for drinking. Since this flu brings on a “cytokine storm” as an over reaction of many human immune systems (see prior blog) and is liable to cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, you will definitely want to have enough to flush toilets!
Other items you will need to buy and store before the U.S. outbreak:
1- Functioning cellular phone with well-charged battery (rapid re-chargers should also be kept in reserve)
2- Obtain one or more dependable self-winding watches so you don't have to use batteries, or chargers to get the time.
3- Flashlights (e.g. Mag-lite) , and also keyring-sized LED lights such as those from Photon-Microlight,which can be worn on a ring.
4- A small AM/FM radio - to receive emergency broadcasts - and note there are several compact, magneto-driven wind up models (Eton Emergency radio) available for most uses. Battery -operated models are also ok, provided you have on hand extra long life batteries.
5- A good First Aid kit, which contains adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, burn cream and other supplies. It's also a good idea to have plenty of boxes of spare antiseptic wipes on hand to wipe down surfaces if one or more in your household becomes ill.
6- Disposable dust masks to filter out air pollutants (e.g. from mass- disposal pyres) if you need to go outside. Also be sure to have a good supply of face masks, or "flu masks" - see e.g. .
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/swine-flu-h1n1-and-face-masks especially in the early phases of the U.S. Avian incursion.
7- Cash. Always have enough cash available, for example if food stores run out - or other critical stores (batteries) - and you may have only scalpers to buy from. One Survival Handbook recommends having on hand at least ten $100 bills, and at least twenty smaller denomination ($20) especially since if the electricity supply is interrupted there won't be any working ATMs.
More in Part 2 (Including hygiene, cooking without electricity and Will preparation)