Posted on February 18 2020
Pandemic Preps Part 1: Personal Prevention
The Novel Coronavirus (or COVID-19) may not end up being the EOTWAWKI but for us Preppers there’s plenty to learn from how the U.S. and the World is reacting to it.
1. Stay (accurately) Informed:
So let’s run the numbers:
As of today, Feb. 17th, 2020 the infected/dead from the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 are as follows1:
Non-mainland China: 1,348/5
United States: 15/0
Corona vs. The Common Flu
COVID-19 is shaping up to be highly contagious. It can be spread through close contact, contact with infected bodily fluids, aerosol contact (small droplets in the air), from droplets left on surfaces, and it can be transmitted vertically (from mother to child).
We won’t know the actual infection/mortality numbers for this pandemic until after all the stats can be analyzed. Right now the fatality rate from the numbers we have (at least from China) is about 2.5%. In contrast, the annual flu rate averages about 0.15%. The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths occur from pneumonia in elderly patients and/or patients with other medically contributing factors.
In the US alone, the CDC estimates the common strains of Influenza A and B result in 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 20102.
Previous Epidemics and Pandemics Infected/Deaths
SARS (SARS-CoV) 2002/2004: 8,098/7743
SARS is another coronavirus that caused a wide epidemic in 2002, and a very narrow laboratory related outbreak in 2004. No cases of SARS coronavirus have been reported since 2004.
MERS (MERS-CoV) 2012 - present: 2,494/8584
MERS is another coronavirus that caused a wide epidemic in 2012. Isolated outbreaks continue to happen globally. Since 2012, 27 countries have reported SARS outbreaks.
Swine Flu (H1N1) 2009 (US ONLY): 60.8 million/12,4695
The second pandemic from this virus was greatly mitigated by the development of a vaccine. The H1N1 virus that caused this pandemic is now a regular human flu virus and continues to circulate seasonally worldwide.
Spanish Flu (H1N1) 1918: 500+ million/50+ million6
The mother of all recorded pandemics. H1N1, as noted above, made a wicked comeback in 2009 and like herpes, is the gift that keeps on giving even today.
2. Personal Prevention:
To cover the official bases: here’s what the U.S. CDC Prevention Recommendations are:
- Avoid being exposed to the virus (duh)
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands (good luck).
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear facemask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including 2019-nCoV.
- Facemask should be used by people who show symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus, in order to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
How to officially wash your hands:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. In case you were wondering, the “Happy Birthday” song is about 20 seconds long. Washing your hands well and often is the single biggest thing you can do to protect yourself (and others) from the spreading threat of viruses.
Proven not quite as effective, but handy in a pinch, a small squeeze-bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer might not be a bad addition to your EDC during Flu season/a potential epidemic.
So here’s the interesting thing… We read from the CDC that masks aren’t advised for civilian everyday-use to prevent contraction of a virus, but as we researched the medical procedures for hospital staff they ARE suggested for anyone getting within 6 feet of a suspected COVID-19 carrier. As we dug a little deeper, it seems certain face masks do help prevent inhalation/exposure to an airborne virus aerosol/droplets (as well as prevent you from absentmindedly touching your mouth and nose), it’s just you’d have to wear it at all times, out in public and when around others at home, to be effective. In some cases they even suggested respirators to medical staff. If you contract COVID-19, wearing a facemask is one of the best ways to limit transmission to others.
For all you suspicious, tin-foil types out there: although the CDC isn’t advising use of any face mask for the 2019-nCoV, they did write a whole report on how to make sure they didn’t run out during a viral pandemic (see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirator-supply-strategies.html and http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2012/04/lab-study-supports-use-n95-respirators-flu-protection )
If being used for prevention, not all face masks are created equal:
Surgical Face Mask:
Good for blocking large particles and helping surgeons and dentist keep pathogens out of their nose and mouth, but for blocking Influenza-type virus they aren’t advised. Due to their loose fitting nature, too much air can enter unfiltered from under the chin and around the nose.
The N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator is recommended from various sources as the market-standard for Virus Filtration. That being said, it takes its toll to use. Not super comfortable, it builds up humidity inside the mask, and also takes extra effort to inhale. Not all N95 masks are classified the same. Some are certified for medical use, some are labeled “for trade use” meaning construction, carpentry, etc… The only difference is that the “trade use” ones haven't gone through FDA approval for medical use and are claimed to be more fluid resistant. Both offer the same filtration protection. N100 respirators work as well if N95’s aren’t available.
The SHTF Respirator:
For the “go big, or go home” crowd, we’d like to at least mention the Elastomeric Half-Facepiece respirators and Full-Face Respirator devices. If sealed to the face properly (without drafts) they work at preventing anything from getting to your eyes, nose or mouth. OSHA recommends checking for fit and “end-of-life” filter dates before purchasing. They also require stone cold nerves of steel to wear for any length of time without eventually freaking out… do yourself a favor and maybe brush your teeth before application.
Part One Cliff Notes:
- Gather accurate, credible, current information from multiple sources. Track the disease. Stay informed on current viral behaviors and how it is contracted/spreads.
- Practice Situational Awareness. Avoid people and place that can potentially put you in contact with the virus (in this case, China, and those who have recently traveled from China (and that one cruise ship)).
- Take personal action/accountably for prevention. With viruses, avoid infection through regular hand washing and not touching orifices and mucus membranes with unwashed hands. If you get sick, avoid getting others sick.
- Maybe keep a stock of N 95 masks handy.