For some preppers, a common motivation to become prepared is the risk of a biological outbreak of some disease with a high mortality rate and aggressive transmission vector. They fear, and with good reason, that if a disease gets out into the open, society will quickly fall and the grid will collapse under the weight of so much death and suffering. This fear certainly seems plausible with events over the past decade of aggressive strains of virus’s but so far we have been relatively protected from any major outbreak. This could be due to the hard work of scientists and disease specialists who are trying everything in their power to create cures and quickly eradicate sources of Pandemic style threats like this. Or at least that is what I assumed until recently.
Tuesday in the Independent we learned the following:
A group of leading scientists has urged President Obama’s advisers to investigate the ethical issues raised by a decision to create a highly infectious strain of bird-flu virus that could be transmitted easily between people.
The scientists, who include a former UK Government chief scientist and a Nobel laureate, said that it is “morally and ethically wrong” to create a new type of influenza virus in the laboratory that is more lethal and transmissible than what actually exists in nature.
This is important because of the high mortality of the H5N1 virus. If infected, the rate of death is 60%, but to date there has been such low transmission from infected birds to humans we have been spared a significant outbreak. Not intent to leave well enough alone, scientists from Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the University of Wisconsin-Madison succeeded in 2011 of mutating the H5N1 avian virus so that it could in theory be transmitted through the air between people. This theoretically makes it much easier to contract, more deadly and much more likely to cause death. Why is this research being allowed?
“But these are high security labs”, you say and “they are very safe about how they handle these virus’s”. Really? It was just last week that a Bio-terror lab in Galveston Texas lost five small plastic vials of an obscure virus called Guanarito.
“They did not consider this a public health threat or a potential theft,” Weaver said, adding that the lab voluntarily made the incident public because of a long-standing pact to be transparent with the Galveston community
They didn’t consider a killer virus getting out in who knows whose hands a ‘health threat’? Without going too far into the realm of conspiracy theory (which in cases like this looks like conspiracy fact) what can you do to prepare yourself and your family for the event of a biological outbreak like the H5N1 virus?
Most biological viruses pass through air, direct contact or bodily fluids so protective gear that will minimize the potential of coming in contact with these pathogens is an important consideration. At a minimum, you should consider a respirator or mask, protective clothing to include eye protection, gloves and footwear and potentially decontamination options. In our article explaining our rationale on why everyone should consider a gas mask as part of your preps, we mentioned some options but you can obtain protection from a less confining option.
Tyvek Suits or coveralls are really cheap considering their use. You need to shop around, but you can find Tyvek coveralls for around $8 each or if you want to be really prepared and save on the per suit cost, you can buy in bulk. You can find these online or even at your local hardware store. Respirators are available in all shapes and sizes from the lower end N95 masks to full face protection masks with interchangeable filters.
In the event of a biological outbreak, we may be required to stay in our homes or “shelter in place”. The simple act of removing yourself from contact with society may reduce your risk of exposure to the virus so planning to stay in your home for an extended time should be a consideration.
These are just a few items to consider, but for each person there are numerous other options. The goal is to start thinking about the potential for this type of threat and how to plan for your family’s safety. It seems obvious that the people we thought were looking out for us simply ‘didn’t consider it’.