In part 1 of this article series, I explained the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic as well as virus transmissions. We also went through some basic biosecurity measures, including items to have on hand and how to use them, including some detail on various disinfectants. Now, let’s move forward in our discussion on dealing with pandemic-causes viruses.
Vaccinations have gotten a bad reputation, unfortunately due to the occurrence of some rare issues such as allergies to vaccines, autoimmune responses, et cetera and a whole lot of misinformation. Generally, if you had regular vaccinations, you might have some protection against any other flu, but it most likely will not be enough to prevent disease; however, it might give you a leg up in regards to dying. The reason for this is in the biology of the virus and the biology of your immune response.
Vaccinations against the seasonal flu are typically weakened or mostly killed influenza virus strains, with the vaccine companies trying to guess which strains are actively circulating next winter. They guess by looking at what is emerging in other parts of the world, particularly the southern hemisphere where winter and flu season is in June, July, and August. They then produce the vaccine against those strains and hope for the best. Obviously, that does not always work, which is why you sometimes have low rates of protection.
How it Works
The way a vaccine works, generally, is that your immune system identifies the killed vaccine strain as a foreign invader. Specialized cells can then recognize different parts and for example produce antibodies, which are specific for just that strain. The mutations that make a virus more virulent or better at infecting usually are in the genes of proteins that the virus uses to enter the target cell. In other words, if any mutation happens in the genes of these proteins, the virus might be able to infect a human. Those proteins are also the parts that antibodies are effective against, because they bind to it and prevent the virus from entering, until other cells simply take care of the invader.
Another way how vaccines work is through a different cell type of the immune system, which can actually recognize additional parts of the virus and kill infected cells directly. These viral parts often are more conserved, because they make up the structure of the virus and are usually not changed much in different viral strains. Researchers currently are trying to develop more effective vaccines against those structural proteins, hoping they will give more general protection against different flu viruses.
Other viruses, such as SARS and MERS-like viruses, are even more difficult regarding vaccine development. We are not even close, especially considering that similar viruses can arise anytime but might be different from what we have seen previously. They can be really nasty buggers.
Treatment (and What Does Not Work)
You did stick to biosecurity, but unfortunately you came into contact with an infected person before people realized what was going on. How do you know you are infected?
You might be starting with feeling either general weakness or the typical signs of a cold or flu, including sore throat, sneezing, runny nose and eyes. Later you potentially develop a cough, fever, soreness, et cetera. The common flu is bad enough and can knock you down significantly, especially if you were not vaccinated. A pandemic flu has the potential to cause a high rate of mortality, so hope for the best. Of course, you should try to go and see a doctor, but in case of a pandemic that might be rather challenging. You might want to go directly to the emergency room, if they have the capacity. Fluids and medication will be important.
There are currently several antivirals on the market, Tamiflu and being the most widely known. They are effective against both Influenza type A and type B viruses, but the big drawback is that you have to take them the first 48 hours to be really effective, and they might not work against the pandemic virus. Also, they might run out, but it is worth a try. If you get really sick though, it might be too late.
Unfortunately, that is kind of it. I know that some people put a lot of stock into herbs/alternative medicine, et cetera. As a scientist, I would not exclude plants that can have antiviral effects, but the problem is that we developed drugs because plant extracts are often not potent enough. They might have some effective component, but which ones and if they are strong enough is a guessing game. Most herbal medicines or extracts won’t hurt anything, but I would not expect wonders in case of an aggressive virus. However, if you are out of options, you should certainly try. There are several books on herbs used in medicine, so if you are interested I would look up a comprehensive book.
Garlic Fun Fact
I have a fun fact from more recent research on the antimicrobial effects of garlic: It works best if you chew the garlic, not take a pill. The reason has to do with enzymatic activation of the effective components of garlic in the mouth when you chew, so just taking a pill does not result in the same effect. Only use it if you are in a truly dire situation and your significant other does not care that you really stink!
Homeopathic Anti-Flu Medications
One of the anti-flu medications from the holistic/homeopathic side sold is Oscillo. I am sure people swear by it, because they took it during a case of “the flu”, which might have been just a cold, and they felt better or thought they did. I do not want to go too much into a rant about homeopathy, but I will give you the facts and leave it at that.
First of all, homeopathy was invented in 1796, well before medicine was developed as a science. It is based on the belief that any substance that causes a disease can also cure the disease. You just dilute the substance in the water until none of the substance remains and only their memory remains in the water. If you want to give it a try, I challenge you to take a large quantity of a toxic substance and then use the homeopathic dilution of it as a remedy. [Editor’s Note: Please folks, don’t do this. The author is using satire to make a point.]
Of course, there are people that swear by it, but in large studies it has become quite clear that this mostly is due to the placebo effect. That is a completely different story and utterly fascinating, but you have to believe in the effect for it to work, and it is certainly not fool proof.
The kicker with Oscillo is that it is made from duck liver and heart. Now why is that used to treat influenza? Funny you should ask: the doctor who came up with it misidentified the causative agent for the Spanish Flu as a bacterium, which he named oscillococcus. The thing is, he claimed he found it in ducks. To summarize, not only is the agent causing influenza a virus, not a bacterium, but said bacterium oscillo, which does not exist or cause the flu, was found in ducks and is diluted to 10400 to treat a viral infection. I rest my case. If you still want to try it, good luck. You will need it.
When you hear about a viral disease popping up infecting people all of a sudden, particularly from the Asian/Middle East regions, consider a few vacation or sick days for the whole family. Keep a close eye on developments; social media might work best.
Stay Home! If you have to go out, practice good biosecurity.
There are few options for treatments, so start early.
Feel free to ask questions regarding anything biology, virology, immunology, pandemic, et cetera. I will be happy to give snarky advice. Just don’t ask me to recommend anything homeopathic.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a two part 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.