Historically, guns and knives make barely a blip on the charts in their ability to kill when compared to mosquitoes, lice, and ticks. These killers trigger no motion sensors or metal detectors. They don’t need night vision goggles. They spare no one and are entirely indiscriminate in their attacks. It was true historically, and it is true now. It will continue to be true in the future. Focusing too much attention on Hollywood’s distracting scripts for doomsday scenarios where firearms do all the killing prevents people from preparing for the far more likely assassins that will find, wherever you bug out.
Fortunately, arming yourself with knowledge, skills, and supplies to defeat nature’s most lethal killers will cost less than a couple of boxes of ammo and doesn’t require any time at the gun range.
When it comes to killing people, mosquitoes have no equal. During the summer months, they are difficult to avoid entirely. However, several measures can be taken to reduce their threat to you.
- Use mosquito repellents. EPA-approved repellents include DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, 2-undecanone, and para-methane-diol. The higher the percentage of the active ingredient, the longer each application lasts, and the more effective. If you are going to use homemade or natural repellents, then try them out now to make sure they work on you. By the same token, some homemade repellents may work well on one species of mosquito, but not another. It’s crucial to find out this information in advance. Recently, Iowa State University research showed that catnip is more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. Unfortunately, it has to be applied much more frequently.
- Make your own mosquito repellent using dried herbs.
- 1 tablespoon catnip
- 1 tablespoon peppermint or spearmint
- 1 tablespoon lavender
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- Fill a pint jar halfway with apple cider vinegar. Add the dried herbs, place the lid on the jar, and shake well to combine. Store in a cool, dark place and shake daily for three weeks. Strain out and discard the herbs. Pour the resulting liquid into a spray bottle and add eight ounces of water. Store in the refrigerator and use as needed.
- Make your own mosquito repellent using dried herbs.
- Use mosquito screens and clothing. Babies should always be covered well with clothing and mosquito netting used over their cribs and strollers. Plan for screen-protected indoor play areas.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin. The odor alone helps repel mosquitoes. In addition, permethrin kills mosquitoes on contact and is effective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing.
- Wear light-colored clothing (studies show that mosquitoes favor dark clothing) and cover the skin as much as possible. Tightly-woven clothing, particularly those made with synthetics, and anything with an SPF rating, are better at preventing mosquitoes from biting through your clothing.
- Mosquito-proof the home. Keep all window and door screens in good repair, without any holes through which mosquitoes could gain access. Use a fan, if possible. Mosquitoes can’t fly well in the wind. Remove standing water and litter from around the home.
Those are the measures for preventing bites and disease. There is a vaccine against yellow fever, but it usually is only administered to those traveling to Africa and South America.
Antiviral herbs that have been historically used and found to be effective in treating yellow fever include elder, ginger, and licorice. Aspirin and other anti-coagulants should not be administered to a person with yellow fever.
As far as malaria is concerned, there are some anti-malarial drugs, but the only one that is effective and commonly stocked by those who prepare is doxycycline.
For all mosquito-borne illnesses, the treatment is basically supportive care—feeding, bathing, and reducing fevers. While the US currently doesn’t have a significant problem with mosquito-borne diseases, such may not always be the case. In 1878, a yellow fever epidemic wiped out over 30% of the population in Memphis, Tennessee. There is no reason why this could not happen again in a grid-down society.
Head lice are what we’re most familiar with. Head lice are about the size of a small sesame seed and do not generally carry disease. However, scratching may compromise the skin and thus introduce infections. Because they are less bothered by lice bites, children can become well infested before anyone notices. Sadly, lice spread quite easily from one child to another, especially through toys, combs, and brushes. A quick test for determining whether suspect flakes in a person’s hair are lice or dandruff is to see whether the flakes will shake off. If they do, hurray! The flakes are dandruff. If they don’t, then they’re probably lice. Another method of differentiating between the two is to use a black light. The nits will appear as blue dots near the scalp.
Body lice look like head lice, but they’re larger. They usually confine themselves to living on clothing and bedding, rather than in the hair. They only come out to feed and can go up to a month between feedings. And when feeding, they prefer the base of the neck and torso. Their bites look like small red, swollen bumps or welts and cause severe itching. In contrast to head lice, body lice can spread diseases like typhus and trench fever. Unchecked, they can actually bleed a person to death.
Pubic lice cause severe itching. Unlike their counterparts, they are more difficult to see due to their smaller size and preferred habitat, pubic hair. But they can also be found in mustache or armpit hair and eyelashes and eyebrows. Because they spread primarily through sexual contact, they are categorized as an STD, one which is not prevented by using condoms. They do not transmit other STDs.
The best prevention option for all lice, beyond strict cleanliness and hygiene, doing laundry routinely, and not sharing personal care items, is to use permethrin. As with most other insects, permethrin will not kill the eggs, but it will kill newly hatched larvae.
The best commercial products available over the counter for eliminating lice are RID and Nix, but they take time. Shaving is always effective.
A 2010 clinical trial in Australia demonstrated that tea tree and lavender essential oils in a carrier oil, massaged into the hair and covered with a shower cap, were more effective than commercial over-the-counter treatments.
Physicians often recommend Benadryl to relieve the itching.
Body lice carry the bacteria that causes typhus. Both lice and typhus occur in the same crowded, unsanitary conditions such as are found with war, famine, refugee camps, and the homeless. The bacteria are transmitted when people come into contact with the feces of body lice, inhale the feces, or get them through compromised skin. Lice are incredibly prolific, and typhus is an efficient killer. It killed more than 10% of Germans during the Thirty Years’ War, over 150,000 Yugoslavs during World War I, and far more of Napoleon’s men than he lost in battle with the Russians.
Typhus symptoms begin seven to fourteen days after being infected, starting first with the sudden onset of a high fever, followed by influenza-type symptoms of headache and rapid respiration. About a week later, a rash appears on the torso, then spreads to the arms and legs, but not the face, palms of hands, or soles of feet. Photosensitivity and altered mental state begin in two to three weeks.
If a physician even suspects typhus is a possibility, he will begin treatment immediately. The only treatment is doxycycline. There are no known natural remedies. Without treatment, most patients will die. The usual adult dosage is 100 mg, twice per day, for seven to ten days.
As with most everything in life, it is better to prepare and prevent rather than repair and repent. Several measures can be taken to avoid tick bites. A natural tick repellent can be made from essential oils (9 drops citronella, 6 drops peppermint, 6 drops tea tree in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil; apply often). Soybean oil is also reputed to be an effective deterrent. Permethrin, as mentioned above, should be applied to shoes, socks, and the lower twelve inches of pant legs and shirt sleeves. Ticks don’t drop down on you from above. They hang out in leaf litter and on shrubs. Place tick tubes in indiscrete areas around the yard and garden, especially where mice will find them. (Commercially manufactured tick tubes are available, but you can make your own by soaking cotton balls in a 7.5% solution of permethrin and placing them in toilet paper tubes. The mice take the cotton balls to build their nests. The permethrin doesn’t harm the mice, but kills the ticks that host on the mice and live in their nests.)
When returning from spending time outdoors in tick country, immediately remove all clothing and wash it in very hot water. Take a shower and check the body thoroughly, paying particular attention to the genitals, back of the neck, and behind the ears.
Should you find a tick, it should be carefully and slowly removed with tweezers. You want to avoid breaking off the head and leaving any of the tick’s parts in your body, if possible. If the head does break off, there may be some minor irritation for a while, but the disease transmission process will have been halted.
It is generally believed that if ticks are removed within twenty-four hours of attachment, no disease-causing bacteria or viruses will have been transmitted. However, doctors often prescribe a single dose of 200 mg of doxycycline as a method of prophylaxis in areas where tick-borne diseases are endemic.
Ticks carry several bacterial diseases. All are treated with doxycycline, usually in doses of 100 mg, 2 times per day, for 10-14 days. This is not to be interpreted as a prescription for treatment, but merely provided as information for what you may wish to stockpile for your family.
Rickettsiosis, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis are bacterial tick-borne diseases that occur in the southeast and upper Midwest of the United States. If any of these are endemic to your area, study up on their specific symptoms and incubation periods. The treatments are the same as for other bacterial tick-borne diseases.
Tick-borne relapsing fever occurs mainly in the western US. Tick bites for this illness usually occur when people sleep in rustic cabins. The incubation period is usually seven days. The three-day fever periods are followed by a seven-day break, then another three-day fever, and so on. This is the only tick-borne bacterial infection that is normally treated with tetracycline or erythromycin, both in the same dosages: 500 mg, every 6 hours, for 10 days.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)