This week, I was reminded about the importance of being able to self-support after a breakdown in the supply chain from a completely unexpected source…the cruise lines.
You see, hundreds of passengers on two cruise ships (one had outbreaks on 2 cruises in a row) contracted a norovirus that caused extreme “digestive system distress”. This particular virus has a couple of interesting features. First, it has a dense outer membrane that is very resistant to alcohol in general and alcohol based hand sanitizers in particular. No amount of hand sanitizer is going to kill it…you simply must remove it from your skin with an advanced hygiene technique called “soap and water.”
Second, people who contract this particular virus normally remain contagious for two weeks after recovering.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see an increase in viruses like this over the next several years. If this virus would have been engineered, I’d say that the creator was an evil genius. In reality, viruses are simply rugged survivalists that embody the credo of “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” It only seems natural that as people use hand sanitizer more and more in place of soap and water that virus mutations that are impervious to alcohol will emerge as the dominant strains.
This isn’t a criticism against hand sanitizers, only a clarion call that hand sanitizer may not always be the cure-all that it’s made out to be and that solid, fundamental hygiene skills should always remain a primary habit.
In fact, Medical News Today reported last August about a presentation at an American College of Preventative Medicine meeting on 161 long term care facilities who either had a preference for alcohol based hand cleaners and ones with a preference for soap and water. What they found was that 53% of facilities that had a preference for alcohol based cleaners had norovirus outbreaks as compared to only 18% of facilities that had a preference for soap and water.
To be fair, the statistical significance of this study is questionable because of how small the sample size was, the fact that the groups were segmented due to “preference,” and the fact that we can’t know for sure that 100% of the outbreaks were accurately identified. None the less, it does mesh with the biological reality that the norovirus isn’t as vulnerable to alcohol as other viruses and bacteria.
This story should also serve as a reminder that large groups of people in close proximity encourage the development, mutation, and spread of disease. We’ve seen this with every major flu outbreak for the last 100 years, we see it in dorms, prisons, and shelters, we’ve seen it with the Occupy Movement, we saw it with these two cruise lines. We’ll see it in the future anytime people, particularly stressed people with weakened immune systems, are in close proximity for extended periods of time, such as in food lines, disaster shelters, etc.
One interesting anecdote on this is the effect that timing has on the severity of the flu virus each year. In parts of the country where the flu starts hitting critical mass right before Christmas break, (and spring break and Thanksgiving to a lesser degree) the flu tends to peter out when kids break for these holidays. But in parts of the country where the flu hits critical mass outside of those holiday times, the close proximity of large numbers of children with questionable or undeveloped hygiene habits helps the flu to spread like wildfire.
So, what do you do? Here are 3 quick tips from UrbanSurvivalPlayingCards.com:
1. Vitamin D – Aim for 20 minutes of daily full body (mostly) sun exposure. (optimal Vitamin D levels can lower your chance of getting the flu by 80%.
2. Avoid sugar and processed foods.
3. Get enough rest (so you don’t need caffeine to function) Getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night increases your chance of contracting illness by as much as 300%.
I also devote an entire section to this topic in the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course, but a few other quick tips are:
1. Wash your hands often to not only kill viruses, bacteria, etc. on your hands, but also to physically remove them from your hands.
2. To the extent that you can, avoid touching your face. If you have to touch your face, avoid touching your eyes and nose.
3. Remembering that 50-75% of people leave restrooms without washing their hands, use a paper towel to open the restroom door when leaving.
4. Consider using a saline nasal wash (with purified water) at least once a day to help physically remove viruses, bacteria, etc. from your sinuses. Read up on this technique before trying it, as there are some techniques that can spread infection in certain cases.
5. Limit your caffeine as much as possible so that you’ll be able to reach the deeper levels of sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours That means that if you have 200 mg of coffee at noon, approximately 100 mg will still be in your system at 6PM and 50 mg at midnight. Regardless of whether you think your body is immune to caffeine or not, it does negatively impact your sleep. Since sleep is one of the primary tools that the body uses to build and recharge the immune system, this can’t be over-emphasized. If you need lots of caffeine to function, it’s a warning sign of a sleep deficit. If you are able to go to sleep immediately after consuming caffeine, it’s most often an indication of exhaustion and/or a blood sugar issue, and the negative effect on deep sleep remains.
More fundamentally, this story from the cruise lines is a reminder of how important it is to be able to self-support after a disaster and to aggressively quarantine sick people if you find yourself in a crowded situation, such as multiple families joining together. It’s also a lesson to people doing large scale disaster planning to look for post-disaster solutions that are distributed in nature and not centralized.
As an example, if you’re a church who’s laying in supplies to be able to feed people after a disaster, you may want to consider having 5, 10, or 20 smaller locations rather than one big centralized location. The distributed solution IS more expensive, requires more people, and is less efficient, but it is also more stable and less likely to be wiped out by a single problem.
A Book Suggestion
I just finished a book that I’ve been telling friends that they HAVE to buy called “Harbinger.” It is an absolute page turning fiction novel that lays out the real life parallels between the fall of Israel to the Assyrians as told in the book of Isaiah, 9/11, the 2008 crash, and more. The book refers to the Bible throughout, so if that’s a problem for you, you’ve been advised. If, though, you’re like me and enjoy Biblicaly based fiction, you are going to fly through this book in a couple of sittings.
Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel!
Did you watch Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel this week? I was traveling this week and recorded it, but JUST walked in the door and haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. I’m going to be posting reviews and summaries of the episodes. Did you watch it? What did you think? What did you learn? Did you think it was a hit-piece on preppers?
I’ve posted reviews on the first two episodes, starting here: http://www.secretsofurbansurvival.com/1248/review-of-doomsday-preppers-on-nat-geo-channel-episode-1/
I know more than one of the people featured on the show are active on the blog…I’d love it if you share your thoughts on how it went.
It should go without saying that NGC is looking for ratings and will focus on families and situations that are extreme to the general public, but what are your thoughts?
What are your thoughts on the cruise line virus? Do you have any plans for this or future flu seasons in the event that it’s particularly widespread or particularly deadly? If you’re part of a church or group that is active in disaster planning, I’d love to hear whether your approach is centralized or distributed and why you came to the conclusions you did. Please share your thoughts and comments by commenting below:
God bless and stay safe,