Are you and your family prepared to stay home for weeks or months at a time if a severe pandemic swept the globe? Most people aren’t ready to weather such an emergency. Yet many experts agree that we should be preparing for such an event.
The word “pandemic” stems from the Greek words “pan” (meaning “all”) and “demos” (meaning “people”). Thus, a pandemic is a widespread infectious disease, bacteria, or virus that sickens a large number of people worldwide. When a disease or illness is isolated to one region or country, it’s called an “epidemic.”
Throughout history, humans have experienced a number of pandemics, some of which have killed tens of millions of people. These pandemics include cholera, smallpox, measles, yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola.
One of the most devastating and well-known pandemics is the Black Death, also known as the Plague, which swept across Europe and Asia during the mid-1300s. It’s estimated that the Plague killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population, or 75 million to 200 million people.
World Health Organization first learned of the 2019 to 2020 coronavirus outbreak on Dec. 31, 2019. According to NPR, experts believe the virus, named COVID-19, originated in the Hunan Seafood Market, a live-animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
And according to experts interviewed by New York Times the current outbreak is increasingly likely to become a global pandemic. It’s easily transmissible through the air, and cases are spiking rapidly, especially in China, where testing kits are in short supply and there’s a backlog in hospitals and labs.
There is plenty of misinformation online. False information quickly fuels panic and can lead to fear and hoarding behaviors, such as stockpiling face masks and food, that do more harm than good. At its worst, hoarding can lead to shortages that put medical staff at risk, such as a shortage of medical supplies.
It’s prudent to stay informed about any new outbreak. However, while media reports on the new coronavirus look and sound frightening, it’s essential to put the outbreak in perspective. For example, the CDC reports that so far this season, between October 2019 and January 2020, the seasonal flu has sickened over 19 million people in the United States, killed over 10,000 people domestically, and led to over 180,000 hospitalizations. We’re at a much higher risk of catching the flu than the new coronavirus.
According to Harvard Business current models suggest that a pandemic might sweep the globe in three distinct waves, each lasting from a few weeks up to three months. This means that you and your family should be able to survive on your own, at home, for a significant amount of time if you have to.
Preparing for a pandemic is an important part of disaster planning and requires many of the same steps. However, there are some additional precautions you need to take in order to keep your family safe.
Supply disruption is also a real possibility during a pandemic. In order to save on storage space and costs, most hospitals and pharmacies only keep enough medicine on hand for a few days, depending on daily deliveries to keep their supplies stocked. In addition, many life-saving medicines are now made in Asia. If a pandemic occurs, there’s a good chance that deliveries will be interrupted or halted entirely. Stores are also likely to sell out of over-the-counter medication quickly.