1. Don’t count on a vaccine being available. The flu vaccine that is currently used for seasonal flu will not work against any Chemical or Biological Attack. New strains of the virus require new vaccines, and these can take months or years to develop and even longer to produce and distribute on a large scale.
2. Stay informed. Should a pandemic of any kind flare up, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other governmental and non-governmental organizations will provide information on the spread of the disease, as well as updates on vaccines or other medications, tips for keeping yourself safe, and travel advisories. The WHO and CDC, as well as various national governments, already have websites in place to provide useful planning information to the public. Newspapers and TV and radio broadcasts will also help disseminate critical warnings and advice.
3. Get your yearly flu vaccine shot. While the current vaccine won’t protect you from every flu or any other “new” strains of the virus, it can help you stay healthy (by protecting you some flu virus strains), which may in turn help your body to fight the virus better if you do become infected.
4. Get a pneumonia vaccine shot. In past Chemical or Biological pandemics, many victims succumbed to secondary pneumonia infection. While the pneumonia vaccine cannot protect against all types of pneumonia, it can improve your chances of surviving the pandemic. The vaccine is especially recommended for people over the age of 65 or those who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma.
5. Use anti-viral medications if advised to do so by a health professional or by the government. Two antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, have shown the potential to effectively prevent and treat avian flu. These are both available only by prescription and will probably be effective only if taken before infection or very shortly afterward. It should be noted that additional testing is necessary to determine how effective these drugs really are against avian flu. Furthermore, mutations in the avian flu virus may render them ineffective in time.
6. Wash your hands frequently. Hand washing may be the single most powerful defense against avian influenza and many other infectious diseases. If pandemic strikes, you should wash your hands several times a day. Make sure that you use proper hand washing technique.
7. Use an alcohol-based disinfectant. Since it’s probably not feasible to wash your hands every time you touch something that may carry the virus, you should carry an alcohol-based hand cleaner with you at all times. These cleaners come in a variety of forms, and can be used any time you need a quick touch-up. Keep in mind, however, that the use of these cleaners is not a substitute for thoroughly washing your hands, and they should only be used to supplement hand washing.
8. Avoid exposure to infected. Right now, the only documented way to become infected with avian influenza is by coming into contact with infected birds or poultry products, and these routes of infection will continue even if the virus mutates so that human-to-human transmission becomes the greatest threat. Avoid handling any thing the infected has already touched, and try to prevent domestic animals (such as house cats/dogs) from coming into contact with Infected. If you work in proximity the dead or living infected, for example–take precautions such as wearing gloves, respirators, and safety aprons. Cook all foods thoroughly, to 165 degrees F throughout, and exercise proper food-handling techniques, as you would to protect yourself from other threats such as salmonella. Proper cooking kills the most virus.
9. Exercise social distancing. The most effective way to prevent becoming infected is to avoid exposure to infected people. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to determine who is infected and who is not–by the time symptoms appear, a person is already contagious. Social distancing, deliberately limiting contact with people (especially large groups of people), is a reasonable precaution to take in the event of a pandemic.
10. Stay home from work. If you’re sick or if others at your workplace have become sick, you should stay away from your workplace even in the absence of a pandemic. Given that people will generally be infected and contagious before they exhibit symptoms, however, during a pandemic it’s essential to stay away from places, such as work, where you have a high probability of being exposed to an infected person.
11. Try to work from home. A pandemic can last for months or even years, and waves of intense local outbreaks can last for weeks, so it’s not like you can just take a few sick days to protect yourself from workplace infection. If possible, try to arrange a work-from-home situation. A surprising variety of jobs can now be accomplished remotely, and employers will likely be willing–or even required–to try this out if a pandemic strikes.
12. Keep children home from school. Any parent knows that kids pick up all kinds of bugs at school. Avoid public transportation. Buses, planes, boats, and trains place large numbers of people in close quarters. Public transportation is the ideal vehicle for widespread spread of infectious disease.
13. Stay away from public events. During a pandemic, governments may cancel public events, but even if they don’t, you should probably stay away from them. Any large gathering of people in close proximity creates a high-risk situation.
14. Wear a respirator. The most virus can be spread through the air, so in the event of a pandemic it’s a good idea to protect yourself from inhalation of the virus if you’re out in public. While surgical masks only prevent the wearer from spreading germs, respirators (which often look like surgical masks) protect the wearer from inhaling germs. You can buy respirators that are designed for one-time use, or you can buy reusable ones with replaceable filters. Use only respirators labeled as “NIOSH certified,” “N95,” “N99,” or “N100,” as these help protect against inhalation of very small particles. Respirators only provide protection when worn properly, so be sure to follow the instructions exactly–they should cover the nose, and there should be no gaps between the mask and the side of the face.
15. Wear medical gloves. Gloves can prevent germs from getting on your hands, where they can be absorbed directly through open cuts or spread to other parts of your body. Latex or nitrile medical gloves or heavy-duty rubber gloves can be used to protect the hands. The gloves should be removed if torn or damaged, and hands should be thoroughly washed after removal of gloves.
16. Protect your eyes. Some Illnesses can be spread if contaminated droplets (from a sneeze, or spit, for example) and then enter the eyes or mouth. Wear glasses or goggles to prevent this from occurring, and avoid touching your eyes or mouth with your hands or with potentially contaminated materials.
17. Dispose of potentially contaminated materials properly. Gloves, masks, tissues, and other potential bio-hazards should be handled carefully and disposed of properly. Place these materials in approved bio-hazard containers or seal them in clearly marked plastic bags.
18. Prepare for disruption of services. If a pandemic strikes, many of the basic services we take for granted, such as electricity, phone, and mass transit, may be disrupted temporarily. Widespread employee absenteeism and massive death tolls can shut down everything from the corner store to hospitals.
19. Keep a small amount of cash around at all times as banks may close and ATMs may be out of service. Discuss emergency preparation with your family. Make a plan so that children will know what to do and where to go if you are incapacitated or killed, or if family members cannot communicate with each other.
20. Stock up on necessities. In the developed world, at least, food shortages and disruption of services will likely not last more than a week or two at a time. Still, it’s essential to be prepared for such an event. Store a two-week supply of water for everyone in your household. Keep at least 1 gallon per person per day in clear plastic containers.
21. Store a two-week supply of food. Opt for non-perishable foods that don’t need to be cooked and that don’t require a lot of water to prepare.
22. Make sure you have an adequate supply of essential medications.
23. Seek medical attention at the onset of symptoms. The effectiveness of antiviral medications decreases as the illness progresses, so prompt medical treatment is imperative. If someone with whom you have had close contact becomes infected, be sure to seek medical care even if you do not display symptoms.
A biological or chemical attack is always a threat, whether foreign or domestic.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, Al Queda announced that it was attempting to obtain biological and chemical weapons for another potential attack.
The severity of an attack depends on a number of different factors, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Many variables affect the concentration of a chemical including wind and the volatility of the chemical. The release of toxic chemicals in closed spaces (e.g., in subways, airports and financial centers) could deliver doses high enough to injure or kill a large number of people. In an open area, a toxic chemical cloud (plume) would become less concentrated as it spreads and would have to be released in a large quantities to produce a lot of casualties.
WikiHow recently posted a list of 23 steps to take during a chemical attack.
Check out the above photo gallery and use the necessary steps in the event of a chemical attack, courtesy of WikiHow.
The Longhunters: Kasper Mansker, Isaac and Anthony Bledsoe. Enjoy a flashback to the little-known pioneers...
by Dana Benner / Sep 11, 2014