I am currently working on the construction of a pandemic flu vaccine facility (way too far away from my intended retreat locale, but I need to be able to afford my retreat 🙂 and I have a couple insights that most people and some medical folks might not have.
First, the new cell culture flu vaccine facilities will have the ability to adapt to mutating strains during production – within reason, and in-process flu vaccine production can either be stopped, or the pandemic vaccine added to the regular vaccine. That is something that is not possible with even the normal flu vaccines when they are made today from eggs … unless they can magically pull 300,000,000 to 6 billion eggs from the grocery store shelves at moments notice. A couple years back there was a big stink about the flu companies and the CDC ‘guessing’ the wrong strain; the cell culture facilities should be able to switch relatively quickly to a new vaccine for a new strain. But, it will still take months from identification to the first mass-produced vial of vaccine to be available (its a relatively straight forward process to anyone who understands biopharm, but it just takes time to go through all the steps).
Second, it takes a while to build a vaccine facility. With a 3-5 year mutation rate, and the world currently being at stage 3 of the 6 stages of the standard progression of a pandemic (per World Health Organization (WHO)), it really is a race at this point. If the new ones aren’t online, regular facilities could be probably be used if the timing is just right for identification prior to production of normal flu batches. Even a pandemic flu vaccine that doesn’t completely match a further mutated pandemic strain may have enough antigens present to provide a touch of resistance to give more people a better chance. Or at least be a nice placebo so the people in charge can keep a little bit of calm by injecting sheeple with some worthless vaccine until a “booster” shot can be developed a few months later. If someone jabs something into your arm, accept it and thank them, but definitely don’t drop your guard: keep your masks on and keep friction washing those hands (i.e., don’t rely on ‘hand sanitizers)!!! People still get the flu after vaccinations today, and I can’t imagine that changing with a pandemic strain.
Third, all the normal flu precautions still apply as other writers have said previously: washing hands, face masks, etc. One thing that I can say that might air in your readers home preparations: The thermal lethality of the flu virus (at least H5N1) is about the same as standard flu. It starts to “die” at about 60 degrees C … so the simple boiling of contaminated sheets/towels/etc. for 5 minutes will pretty much inactivate of the virus (us biopharm folks go ‘a bit’ further than this in our equipment preps, but even we recognize the absurdity of what we do).
For survival purposes, a good autoclave to have sitting around the house is a 20-quart or greater, 15-pound pressure cooker/canner). Buy a cheaper aluminum one since it typically won’t come in direct contact with food. When bacteria or viruses are a concern (botulism, staph, or anything but a couple laboratory created freaks tougher than /thermopolis/), 20 minutes under 15 pound steam (atmospheric pressure + 15 pounds) will kill everything present (molds, bacteria, virii, protozoas, lice, mutant zombie gophers) whether its surgical equipment, needles, thread for sutures, or anything that you really want to sterilize. Some pressure cookers are multi-select (5, 10, or 15 pounds), but they all typically operate at 15 pounds. Plus, a good canner/pressure cooker is still required to store away next winters’ food supply.
When sterility (i.e., absolute of death of all things creepy) is required, boiling is not sufficient. On television , you see people boiling a pocket knife before they cut out a bullet, um, no. Twenty minutes in a pressure cooker is the equivalent of something like a day or two of boiling at 100C to obtain the same ‘sterility’ (I have all the equations, but I’m not motivated enough to do the absurd calculation); and if you’re at high altitude, now you’re looking at sub-100 temperatures when boiling. People can boil ‘living water’ and make it safe enough for drinking, because the simple reduction in number of bugs is typically sufficient to allow your immune system to stop the threat, or to keep the populations low enough so they are passed through your system before toxin levels grow to dangerous or even perceived levels. Most water filters (per FDA requirements) only need to hit 99.9x% reductions in various organisms which is perfectly fine for drinking and eating. But for field surgeries, go for full sterility.
Buy a smaller stainless steel pressure cooker for anything that comes in direct contact with the food you actually intend to eat (such as that roast from the 12 year old breeding bull that you finally had to butcher). I believe in the evil of too much aluminum in one’s diet; regardless of what the aluminum industry and the politicians who receive campaign contributions from the aluminum products producers tell us.
Of course, my overall confidence: I have full set of duplicate survival gear/supplies stowed away in a storage facility a couple miles from my work site on the other side of the country. And I believe that its going to be a long walk home someday. I hope The Great Maker protects us all . – NotDave