Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pandemic Part II

In the previous post, an outline of the flu pandemics after the 1918 Spanish Flu was given. It was noted that the world has not seen a serious influenza outbreak since 1968, and that the "Bird Flu" has the potential to mutate into a easily transmissible, highly lethal pathogen.

Since a potential threat has been recognized, a proactive and reactive response plan must be prepared to safeguard oneself and one's family against the possibility of a serious outbreak of influenza.

The first step in preparing one's family is to create a proactive plan, and to place it into operation. A proactive plan will cover the collection of emergency materials, and the staging of the materials so that they are readily available in case of emergency.

If the reader is aware of the current state of the world with its myriad economic, religious, political, environmental, regional, racial, ethnic, and the ad nauseam minor issues that serve to divide humanity, then the reader has already taken steps to prepare oneself for what is popularly referred to as "TEOTWAWKI", or The End Of The World As We Know It.

If you've already taken basic steps to ensure your family's well being in an adverse situation, then this will be a simple add-on to your preparedness plan. If you have not, we will go over the basics by linking you to established, respected websites that already contain this information. There are numerous sites on the web that offer advice on preparing for arduous situations where society has become unstable and unreliable.

One of the best books for the novice "preper" can be found here: "Dare To Prepare". It is written in plain language and avoids the jargon that has permeated the preparedness community. If you are unable to purchase a book, visit this page on the Millennium-Ark. It has FREE information on the basics needed to prepare for emergency situations.

The information goes beyond the basics often recommended by FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The end of this post will contain links to other websites that host additional preparedness information.

Proactive Plan Materials:

These items should be gathered ahead of time and staged in a manner where everyone within the household will have access to them. Typically everything you will need will fit inside a plastic tote designed to fit underneath a bed.


These will need to be worn when outdoors, or while in contact with other people.

The NIOSH N95 mask may not provide sufficient protection against the viruses we are concerned with, although it has been often promoted as a solution. The N95 mask came to prominence in the wake of the Anthrax attacks following the 9/11 event. The letter "N" means that the mask is not oil proof or resistent. Exposure to oil will reduce its effectiveness as a filter. The "95" means that the filter is 95% effective at removing particulates at a normal rate of respiration.

The N95 mask will filter particulates larger than 0.3 microns. This is fine for organisms such as Anthrax, but not for viruses that cause Influenza A, B, and C. These viruses are 0.08 to 0.12 microns in diameter.

The N95 mask also does not destroy the infectious agents. When the mask is used, it gathers the infectious agent, and concentrates it in a small area. The infectious agent is able to survive in the media due to the moisture and warm temperatures provided by the respiration of the wearer.

Criticism of these types of masks is centered around the fact that they are unable to form a seal between the user and the mask. The flexible metal strip on the bridge of the nose is designed to help with the fit, but most critics find it less than effective. Without a full seal, unfiltered air can be inhaled by the wearer.

The NanoMask, manufactured by Emergency Filtration Products, filters particulates down to 0.027 microns in size., and is able to form a seal between the mask and the wearer. It is constructed in such a way that the warm, humid environment that is hospitable to viruses is minimized. It also incorporates in its construction chemicals that destroy pathogens. The mask has filters that are able to be replaced.

3M manufactures a line of reusable full face and half face respirators. The 3M 5N11, N95 particulate filter, and the 7093, P100 particulate filter designed for use with these respirators is advertised as able to reduce inhalation exposure to biologicals. I was unable to locate any definitive numbers for the amount of reduction. There is also a line of disposible respirators.

3M has also produced a line of respirators specifically designed for use by the public in case of a pandemic. They may be viewed and purchased here.

A full size poster of how to properly wear a respirator is available for download here.

After use, the filters and disposible respirators will need to be treated as a source of contagion. They may have become saturated with a pathogen. Do not re-use a disposible respirator. When removing filters, or a disposible mask, wear gloves if possible. Place used filters and masks in a plastic bag and seal it. Avoid reopening the bag once the filters and masks have been placed inside. Incinerate the waste at the earliest opportunity. Wash your hands after removing a mask or changing filters, and decontaminate anything that may have come in contact with the exterior of the mask or filter.

Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape

If you have already gathered Visqueen, or similar plastic for dealing with potential fallout from a nuclear incident, good for you! One less thing to worry about. Everyone should have a number of rolls of duct tape on hand.

The plastic sheeting and duct tape will be used to construct a "clean room". You probably will not want to spend the entire duration of the pandemic confined to wearing a mask, or respirator. You will need to construct an area where it is difficult for the pathogen to invade.

One can actually fairly well seal an entire house or apartment using these materials. What one must do is cover all exterior doors and windows using the plastic sheeting. Seal the plastic in place using the duct tape. In addition, any source of outside air must be sealed off. These include, but are not limited to, bathroom vents and fans, wall sockets and switchplates, access to crawlspaces and attics, the hood above the range, access points for cable for TV or satellite, etc.

If a serious pandemic does erupt, chances are people will be confined to their homes to minimize the spread of the contagion. There probably will not be a need to construct an "airlock", however it might be prudent to have the materials on hand to do so. You will need a manner in which to transit a person from within the home to outside without exposing the entire home to the outdoors.

Great. Now what do I do after the air runs out and we all suffocate?

Chances are unlikely that will happen. If one lives in an area where the infection rates are low, one can probably safely open the windows on the side of the structure that faces full sunlight during the day. Viruses and bacteria are easily destroyed by a component of sunlight known as UV-C. Close the windows and reseal them when the sun begins to fade. This will allow plenty of exchange for fresh air to enter the structure.

Wait for full sunlight to be present for at least one hour to ensure sterilization before opening a window.

To be continued....

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