From syphilis and the black death to cholera, influenza and the pox, the world has come up against fearsome epidemics in centuries past. In modern times, the 70s witnessed an epidemic of Legionnaires’ disease (check out a detailed history of Legionnaires’ disease here), it was Ebola in the 90s, and SARS and swine flu in the early 2000s. Today, the zika epidemic frequently shows up in news reports.
With the epidemic outbreak of a new disease comes a sense of fear, and even panic. Can the disease strike close to home?
In truth, modern outbreaks do not kill on the scale seen in epidemics of the past that occurred when modern healthcare standards were unavailable. It isn’t usually necessary to worry about being infected by a disease reported on. Nevertheless, there are preventive steps that it can make sense to take.
Read up carefully
When you’re worried about an infectious epidemic, gathering information on it can help you find the right precautions to take. Whether it is washing your hands on a regular basis, avoiding travel to affected parts or taking preventive supplements and medications, knowing what to do can be helpful.
Following through on the rules that you learn is even more important. If shaking hands helps spread a flu, it’s a good idea to give the habit a rest for a while, politely explaining to people what the problem is. Children and the elderly should be especially careful with unnecessary contact.
Learn healthier habits
Frequent handwashing is only one of several things that you can do to help keep an infection from affecting your family. Leaving the shoes outside the home is a good idea, for example, even if doing so may draw protests from friends and family. There is really no reason to bring the shoes indoors. Pathogens from outdoors pose a health risk. If there are small children at home who like to play on the floor, shoes should be left outside, whether or not there is an epidemic to worry about.
Do not use antibiotics unless necessary
While it may be tempting to pop a pill or two at the first sign of a problem, it isn’t advisable. It isn’t even a good idea to use antibiotic soap to wash your hands with. Antibiotics, when overused, help create new epidemics all by themselves, through turning pathogens resistant to drugs. It’s important to take antibiotics only when recommended by a doctor.
Buy a water purifier
Whether or not a disease is water-borne, it is sensible to invest in a well-designed water purifier for your home. Purified water devoid of all pathogens can only help keep your family healthier.
Maintain a journal
Today, epidemics are usually not uncontrollable forces. They often spread for reasons of carelessness by various parties who have a role to play. One news channel, for instance, recently reported on an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, an extremely virile form of pneumonia. It was found that as many as 6,000 guests at a La Quinta Inn in Memphis, TN, were exposed to the disease, and a dozen guests developed the condition. In cases such as these, where the carelessness of an establishment possibly contributes to the spread of a disease, there may be lawsuits.
Should you or a family member begin to experience the symptoms of a rapidly spreading infection, it’s usually good idea to attempt to recall every event of days past, and to put it down in writing. Whether an infection comes from a poorly protected workplace, hospital, restaurant or hotel, a journal can be useful in establishing cause in the event of a lawsuit.
Exercise helps boost the immune system. While it isn’t a good idea to get such exercise at a public gym through an ongoing epidemic (public gyms can be dangerous breeding grounds for pathogens), it makes sense to work out in the safety of your home. It’s important to not overdo things, however. Exhaustion weakens the immune system.
If it makes you feel better, prepare for the worst
Survivalists tend to find great comfort in preparing for the worst possible outcomes. If it helps you cope with the anxiety brought on by an outbreak, thoroughly preparing for a lockdown can make sense. Survivalist blogs detail the kind of supplies to stock up on — everything from power generators to supplies of clean drinking water.
Preparedness and simple common sense can go a long way offering protection against an epidemic.
Millie Pope works in medical research and is a keen researcher and article writer inside, and outside, of work. She contributes to a selection of health/medical blogs as well as the occasional news site.