In 1850, malaria occurred throughout the entire region of what is now the lower 48 states, with the exception of some of the higher altitudes of the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. It sickened and killed thousands of the pioneers moving westward, even though the type of malaria most common in the country tended not to be the most fatal form of the disease. Today, malaria is so uncommon that American physicians often fail to recognize the rare cases seen in travelers or immigrants.
Cases are rare, and deaths are even rarer. Perhaps surprisingly, the mosquitoes that can spread the disease are still here in very large numbers. So, why did this disease disappear from the U.S.? The answer to this question is very important to anyone interested in preparing for a time when modern medicine and public health would not be available. It demonstrates that unexpected diseases will provide more danger to survivors than will all the roving gangs and escaped prisoners combined.
Why Malaria Not in U.S. Anymore
One might guess that the reason malaria is not here anymore is because we cured all of the cases with drugs and killed a whole lot of mosquitoes with insecticides, eventually eliminating the parasite that causes the disease. These actions obviously played some role in the elimination of the disease, but they really were relatively minor factors. After WWII, two very powerful tools for fighting malaria became available to fight malaria: DDT and the anti-malaria drug chloroquine. They were both inexpensive and very effective, so health workers throughout the country started using them extensively to fight the disease.
However, in many ways, the health workers were too late. Even before the advent of modern antibiotics and anti-malaria drugs and even before the availability of modern insecticides, malaria occurrence had already started to wane. The disease was gone from major swaths of the country. The disease remained in Florida and around the Gulf of Mexico with smaller pockets elsewhere, but malaria had disappeared from most of the country. The reason for this disappearance, even in the absence of modern drugs and insecticides, was simple: an improved standard of living.
A Disease of Poverty
Malaria, like so many other important illnesses, is a disease of poverty. The poverty we refer to here implies poor housing, poor nutrition, unsanitary and crowded living conditions, and most important, bad water. As the American living conditions improved, people could afford to put screens on windows, to protect drinking water from sewage, to eat enough nutritious food to allow their immune systems to function at a high level, and to wash both their bodies and their clothing.
Later, the houses got air conditioning so that windows could be closed. People starting staying inside more, away from the disease-carrying mosquitoes. Radio, then television, kept people inside. Although these changes led to an ever-increasing American waistline, they also eliminated the malaria parasite from the American population and the disease disappeared from the United States. Drugs and insecticides helped, but the disease was already on its way to elimination well before modern chemistry provided these new tools.
Why Important in TEOTWAWKI
So, why is this story important to anyone contemplating TEOTWAWKI? Remember that the mosquitoes that spread malaria are still around. If America’s high standard of living is destroyed, people will be exposed to the mosquito again, and with time, the parasite will find its way back into the U.S. Air conditioners won’t work anymore. Windows will break. Screens will tear. Our predecessors probably had a small degree of immunity to malaria inherited from their parents and stimulated through constant exposure to infected mosquitoes.
That immunity provided only partial protection, not preventing relatively mild recurrences of illness. But modern Americans have not been exposed to these parasites; we have no immunity, and we have no vaccine for malaria. The result could be a perfect storm of immunologically vulnerable people living in primitive conditions with poor hygiene and several accompanying diseases. Malaria would return with a vengeance. Furthermore, it is only one of several diseases that most Americans thought they would never see again.
Benefit of Modern Public Health and Utilities
Modern public health and public utilities provide a number of services that ensure an environment in which people can lead healthy lives. Those services include water purification, sewage treatment, garbage collection and disposal, disease outbreak investigation and quarantine, mass immunizations, and food safety inspections. Some services that may not be visible to the general population are actions like mosquito control, dog catching, public accommodation (hotel and motel) hygiene, and animal carcass removal.
Public safety issues like proper highway signage, road maintenance, and dam safety inspections receive little attention from the public. These services can sometimes be intrusive, but what happens to a modern society when the services disappear? Like malaria, many other diseases would return in the absence of these services. The rest of this essay will discuss some of diseases that would provide an increased threat to a surviving population.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Many of these threats are kept at bay by immunizations. They include diseases like whooping cough, strep throat, and diphtheria. Probably the biggest threat to a remnant population would be influenza, the flu. This disease has taken on the status of a very uncomfortable inconvenience for many, but it is much more than that. Even in modern America, an average of about 30,000 people die every year from the flu. The virus mutates so fast that several new strains emerge every year.
The immunization from one year is probably not effective the following year, because the strain is different. So without a continuous flu vaccine program, many more would become ill and many more would die. The 1918 flu epidemic killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, and flu experts believe it is only a matter of time before another strain just as deadly returns. Influenza is not an inconvenience; it is a killer in the absence of modern public health.
Another disease that used to be considered an inconvenient childhood disease in the U.S. is measles. Despite the common perception of this disease as an inconvenience, it actually causes more deaths than any other vaccine-preventable disease in the world. The virus is extremely contagious. About ninety percent of unimmunized people in a room with an infected case will go on to develop the disease. With good supportive care and a high standard of living, the number of people who have serious complications is relatively small.
Where the standard of living is low, however, measles becomes deadly. Measles occurs with other diseases and makes those diseases much worse. An unpleasant case of diarrhea, therefore, becomes a fatality. Health professionals who work with refugee populations have known for years that the most important life-saving measure they can provide to refugee children is a measles vaccination. Measles would bounce back in a post-disaster American faster than any other disease. Any child born after a TEOTWAWKI event and who does not get the measles vaccine would be at very high risk.
Tomorrow, we will continue to look at other threats and how we can best protect ourselves from them.
- A Realistic Assessment of Epidemic Disease After TEOTWAWKI- Part 1, by Dr. DMC (Active on 1/10/18)
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 74 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 74 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.