As we learned yesterday, malaria, like so many other important epidemic 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. 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. Malaria is not the only disease to consider either. We have already looked at upper respiratory infections, including influenza (flu), and measles. Today, we will continue examining other threats and how we can minimize them after TEOTWAWKI.
Bad water, reduced immunity and inadequate sanitation are conditions that inevitably lead to diarrhea epidemics. In a disaster situation, those epidemics are dangerously deadly. Think about the diarrhea outbreaks on the spotless cruise ships that one sees so often in the news. And those occur where sanitation is excellent, where toilets flush and people wash their hands! After disasters, the situation is much worse.
The Haiti Earthquake
The 2010 Haiti earthquake provides an example. The deadly disease cholera did not occur in Haiti prior to the massive earthquake, but a few months after the shaking stopped, the first cases of this disease were reported near the nation’s capitol. By 2016, nearly 750,000 had been affected and about 10,000 had died. This was actually a success story, because the death rate of cholera in such situations is usually much worse. Eventually, the United Nations admitted that their own disaster relief troops from Nepal had introduced the causative bacterium to the island through careless sanitation. Ten years later, the epidemic continues.
Flies Spread Disease in Disaster Situation
The disaster situation often takes a toll on housing so that people have to sleep outdoors. This was certainly the case in Haiti, because damaged buildings were dangerous during the multiple aftershocks. In such situations, flies become cholera-dispersal units, moving between standing sewage and peoples’ mouths and eyes. The flies’ feet and mouth parts transport the cholera bacteria easily, exposing even the cleanest of individuals to the disease.
But cholera is not the only diarrheal disease that can be spread by the typical filth fly. Many diseases already in the U.S. can be spread even more easily. One more example will illustrate this.
During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, American troops suffered an outbreak of diarrhea caused by a bacterium called shigella. The author was stationed with a Marine Corps unit in Saudi Arabia at the time and saw this first hand. The American troops had never been exposed to this organism before and were very vulnerable to it. The germ had been introduced to the troops through locally grown foods fertilized with human waste or “night soil”. The sick Marines had to use the open latrines where enormous swarms of flies picked up the germs and then transmitted them to the lips and eyes of other Marines.
Shigella is highly infectious and can be spread by only a few organisms; the feet of a fly can transmit thousands. So the outbreak grew and persisted. The fighting ability of several military units was ruined overnight by a combination of bad food, poor sanitation, and a huge swarm of flies.
Similar Effects in TEOTWAWKI When Sewers Stop Working
A TEOTWAWKI event would have similar effects, especially in an urban environment where sewers stop working long before the digestive systems of the local population stop. Of all the diseases that would affect a surviving remnant, diarrhea may be the most likely and the most dangerous.
A vector is a living organism that picks up a disease-causing germ from one animal and transmits it to another. Malaria is a vector-borne disease, because a mosquito picks up the parasite from an infected human and transmits it to another. There are many more such diseases in the world. In the United States, the most important are probably Lyme disease (spread by a tick) and West Nile virus (spread by a mosquito). Thousands have been affected by these diseases, but they would probably not be the ones that would be of the biggest concern in a post-disaster America.
One vector-borne disease that could have surprising impact and that few people think about today is typhus. This disease is truly a disease of poverty and poor sanitation. It is spread by the body louse. The body louse is different from the head louse that nearly every child is exposed to at some time. The body louse lives in the seams of clothing and spreads the typhus organism with remarkable efficiency. It feeds on humans, and then it moves back to the clothing where it is protected. In modern society, typhus is seen in two vulnerable populations: the homeless and refugees. These groups often live in conditions that prevent them from bathing and laundering their clothes. This is heaven for the body louse. Once typhus enters a population, it spreads like wildfire, and it is truly deadly.
How Deadly is Typhus?
One example of how deadly typhus can be stands out above all others. In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with 600,000 soldiers. When he returned, he had between 30,000 and 60,000 men. Only about 1,000 men recovered enough to return to active duty with the French army. This was one of the greatest military disasters of all time, and it was caused by a variety of factors: the Russian winter, the Russian Army, and typhus. Of all of these, typhus is considered to be the greatest factor leading to Napoleon’s defeat. The men had no opportunity to bathe or to clean their clothing.
They huddled together at night to conserve body heat. This was a wonderful environment for the lice that moved from body to body, spreading the typhus disease agent freely and killing tens of thousands of French soldiers. Typhus is one of the unexpected diseases with the potential to cause untold human suffering in a disaster situation. Other vector-borne diseases with the potential for a big comeback include malaria, yellow fever, and dengue.
Another disease, though not really a vector-borne disease, is worth mentioning: rabies. This disease is spread through the bite of certain mammals and sometimes through other methods, such as saliva aerosols in bat caves. Americans have kept this disease at bay through immunization of their pets and other animals. As a result, dogs are considered members of our families. That is not true in places where rabies is rampant. In those countries, children are taught to fear dogs, because even a nip from a puppy can be deadly. In a disaster situation, our pets may be invaluable to us, but they can turn on us as well. The urban disaster zone of Detroit demonstrates this by its roving packs of pit bull mixed breeds. Rabid pit bulls could make this situation even scarier.
The diseases discussed here are only some of the ones with potential for major resurgence after a disaster event in the U.S. There are, however, bright spots to consider. At least we know what causes these diseases now, and we know how to prevent them. Typhus can be prevented by regular bathing and laundering of clothing. Diarrhea can be prevented with good water treatment and sanitation.
Smallpox and Polio
There are bright spots to consider. Smallpox has actually been eradicated from the wild. This disease probably caused the greatest disaster in human history: the depopulation of much of the New World after its introduction by colonizing Europeans in the 1500’s. At least this scourge is gone, unless someone with a biological weapon re-introduces it. It is too bad that another disease, polio, has not been eradicated as well. Until recently, polio was well on its way to eradication. Only a few dozen cases were occurring annually. Then the Syrian civil war occurred. The disease resurged there and in other countries where inadequate security interfered with immunization programs (Afghanistan and Pakistan, specifically). War, in general, and civil war, specifically, is deadly to public health programs.
The Basic Preparations For Prevention
When considering survival after a catastrophic and widespread event, it is important to consider the basics: food, water, shelter, and security. But even the most prepared can be vulnerable to the unexpected. The unexpected can be re-emerging infectious diseases. Some things can be done to prepare. For instance, the yellow fever vaccine is probably good for 20 years, maybe for life. The military re-immunizes its personnel every 10 years. The vaccine is safe, long-lasting, and effective. Unfortunately, most diseases do not have an easy answer like yellow fever. Protection from most diseases must rely on the factors that reduced malaria in America even before modern drugs and insecticides became available. Those factors were good housing, good nutrition, good sanitation, and pure water. There is no replacement for any of these.
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.