Preparing for Hand Sanitizer Resistant Viruses

by David Morris on February 9, 2012

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,

David Morris

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{ 185 comments… read them below or add one }

+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Lenny33604
February 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I am worried.
Being new to prepping, I thought it might be possible to find others who know more than I do in my area, who might be willing to share their information. Unfortunately, with all the searching I’ve done, I can’t find anything. I am a single widow, approaching 60, with limited funds and health problems that require medications. Doctor will only prescribe one month at a time. (What’s going to happen when I can’t walk due to extreme pain and no meds are available?) How can I prepare when funds are so limited? How can I store what I can attempt to accumulate when I have no space to store and no money to rent space? At my age, I’m beginning to feel it is hopeless, but nonetheless, I still watch Les Stroud and anything else I can to learn more.

I’ve had this crazy idea to start a Church of Steel and Ink. Not a normal church, but a gathering place for those who see the writing on the wall and wish to share their unique expertise. A place where a close-knit group of people could speak freely about what’s on their minds and for those with the ability to help others, and the willingness to do that.

I consider myself ‘gnostic’, not in the historical sense, but a modern sense where the written word is powerful, knowledge is priceless, and when it doesn’t work, then steel may be the next best answer.

I know it means a lot of work and I’m looking for anyone who would like to get involved and help get it off the ground. I am not looking for handouts, but rather people of like-mindedness about what may be coming and how best to survive it.

It seems that the people I know that know all about hunting, preserving their kill, how to camp, survive in urban or wilderness settings, who seem most prepared for disasters in all the ways I’ve learned about here, tend to be loners. They have all this great information, but due to their nature of keeping to themselves, the knowledge is not shared with those who know less. Again, at my age and physical condition, I feel I am way behind on the learning curve, at what might well be the last minutes of stability in society.

An organization like this, perhaps in many locations, could help a lot of people who otherwise are unable to do it all on their own. Each person has special skills, when combined with others with unique skills, the entire group benefits. It also might be possible that contributions by individuals to the group could help many in such a group, and by using the resources of the individuals, like splitting up storage of supplies, weapons, etc., again could help a lot of concerned, interested people. There is strength in numbers. If ever there was a time that this is needed, now looks like it is the time.

Of course, on the outside, the organization would look more like a social club, but within, behind closed doors, a lot could be accomplished, many heads working together. Pooling excess supplies, pooling resources and information, developing comprehensive plans for each group, and just the possibility of meeting others of the same mindset would be a great benefit to all members of the group(s).

It is too large of a job for just one person, so again, I ask, is anyone interested? Or am I having a ‘pipe dream’ moment? Thanks for letting me spout.

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Vote -1 Vote +1Sherry Woodworth
February 15, 2012 at 11:20 am

We are in a similar situation. You’ve got a really good idea here. I live in NE and I have no idea where to start getting a community together for preparation of what is at our door right now. Any attempts that I make, are met with ridicule, and contempt. Even though I spend a lot of time in my wheelchair, and my companion is totally blind. We still try to garden. And collect rainwater, ect. We are reguarded as foolish old (sinele/crazy), and we should settle down and enjoy our senior years. They just will not wake up!
We live on our Social Security, which is very small, so preparing for a large group of people is impossible. I watch the neighborhood children, and my heart aches.

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Vote -1 Vote +1T
February 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Lenny your ideas are very sound. I recommend you pursue them until they come to fruition. My wife and I live in California where the cost of food is ridiculous. We often go to the 99 cent store or the Dollar Tree to buy the food we put away for prepping. I also have a “Food Saver” and we vacuum seal all we can so it will last longer. We also go to a store where you can buy bulk items such as pinto beans, rice, spices and other items which we also vacuum seal. If you can keep you food items as cool as possible without the use of a refrigerator they tend to last longer as well. We also have a food dehydrator and we use this to dehydrate the food we grow in our garden which we vacuum seal as well. You can also try canning food as a way to increase your food supply. The preppers known as “loners” have a good reason for not telegraphing their intentions because if the people around them are not doing the same thing when the time comes when food is scarce they will be the focus of those who have no food. After a certain amount of time without water or food a person will not process thought logically and will act accordingly. In my neighborhood I am the only “prepper” and have not told anyone what I am doing in order to avoid any potential future conflict.
When we go to the grocery store we buy the no name brands of canned food such as green beans, peas, spinach etc and put them into our storage area. I also collect rain water for drinking and can collect up 500 gallons due to the storage containers we purchased at a local storage unit place. We just finished the last of the water that was collected last march and it tasted great.
Regarding your medications you need you should ask your doctor why he or she will only prescribe a month at a time. Try to get more than one refill if you can. You may have already tried this and at the moment I have no alternative. Sorry.
Continue to pursue your ideas as best you can and good luck.

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Vote -1 Vote +1cj
February 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Can you move? If you can move to some place that would give you more space for storing, that would be a good idea. You have a lousy doctor! I would advise you to do research on natural treatments for whatever ails you. You might be surprised that “alternative” medicines are really better than prescriptions. Since I don’t know your ailments, I can’t give you any info. I raise a lot of medicinal herbs for storage. I am a loner also, but have a couple of like minded friends and all my neighbors are good people. I live in the boonies in WY, but if you want to correspond via email, I will help you with what I can.

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Vote -1 Vote +1Pawlove
March 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Hi Lenny,
Your note sounds like I could’ve written much of it. I just turned 61, my spirit feels 29 but unfortunately my body isn’t cooperating. I have to take several meds to control my pain and I also can only get one month’s worth at a time. I have had nightmares about everything from unbearable pain, which I have suffered in the past, to severe withdrawal to the medications. I know of nothing to do but hoard. I have not even told my husband the degree that I have started very, and I mean very very, gradually to lower the dosages on each medication. I would never do that with something like blood pressure medication but with pain stuff I have learned to modify activity and learn to tolerate a new level of pain each and every day to have enough stash to at least be able to wean on a gradual basis if the society crash comes sooner than we hope. I am a medical professional so I realize the things I am saying are controversial and could not be a recommendation but rather a statement of where I find myself. I have been unable to work for over 10 years and often have to be on bedrest due to pain. I have been surprised that I have been able to decrease my dosages at a time that the physical condition that causes my pain worsens. I feel it is state of mind because I have never been able to drop the doses in the past. I know the time is nearing when I may have nothing available at all so I am doing all I can to work on a solution, or at least a plan. If your medication is controlled you would not find a dr. who would, or even could if she wanted to, supply you with more than a month’s supply. The laws are pretty strict in that area. I wish you the best. It has to be so hard to be alone and facing these challenges. Thank God we have the ability to reach out to each other via the internet and forums such as this.

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Vote -1 Vote +1Karen Cook
February 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

This is regarding the situation that Lenny and Sherry find themselves in. I would suggest that you start off with getting your HAM Technician license; it’s cheap and it’s not that hard to pass (I’ve got a General ticket, the next level up, so can speak from experience on that). Many HAMs are big on preparedness and don’t think it odd to stock up for emergencies; after all, in serious emergencies, HAMs are often the folks providing communication assistance to the gov’mint folk, and that does take some forethought. There are NGOs like RACES and ARES that assist local government in emergencies, and they are also full of people who are prepared.

You can also look into Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) which is sort of the civilian equivalent of FEMA. More people into preparedness, only cost we ran into was for the equipment, which was nominal.

I would also suggest looking at the online forums for people preparing for emergencies; after you wade through the political and conspiracy crap you can find a lot of good information. Instructables.com has tons of how-to articles, as does Mother Earth News’ website. Bacwoods Home and Countryside magazines also have some information on line.

Check with your preferred faith group and see if they have an emergency response team; sometimes that’s a resource as well.

The library is an excellent resource, as is the Internet. You can find a lot of information, everything from how to purify water to what to do where there is no doctor.

Check into books like Recipes for a Small Planet for ideas on things you can eat based on things you can grow or purchase inexpensively. Protein combining doesn’t have to happen all at one meal, either; you can have lentil soup one day and whole wheat toast the next and your body takes the incomplete proteins and combines them from both meals and presto – good complete protein your body will put to use.

Don’t try to prepare for anybody but your household (or people that you know will be part of your household). Your needs are unique, and responsibility for being prepared lies with the individual household unless there are reasons that household cannot prepare. If I had to I would turn away friends and relations, not out of hardheartedness but because I can only prepare so much. Besides, not many people like sardines on toast with coffee for breakfast. : )

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Vote -1 Vote +1KW
February 18, 2012 at 9:08 pm

One of the eaqrliest things taught to surgeons is the proper way to scrub, particularily hands. Much mechanical work goes into removing everything but your skin. The soap is just a lubricant to get the little buggers loosened, the water flushes them away after they are floated by the soap and scrubbing. The various soaps are medicated, but no one could dare rely on just the soap.
On the subject of soap, the history of people culturing the bathroom bar of soap at home and comparing it to a culture of the nearby toilet seat is very enlightening. It can make you switch to liquid soap in a pump-type dispenser.

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Vote -1 Vote +1Keeper
February 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Lenny, your right on the mark! I and my wife, at 60 and feel we have a big head start, got a place in MT, off the grid, but only 3 miles from a small town. myself and a couple neighbors all are preppers to one extent or another. We have expierence in living the concepts, but even so we are always learnimg, so I’m with you!

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Vote -1 Vote +1David R
February 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I just finished the Harbinger last night. A great read and very prophetic. As far as resistant viruses and bacteria, have you ever tried liquid Silver. A company called Water OZ produces a silver that is great at killing viruses and bacteria. I have yet to find one that is resistant to it. it can be used orally or topically. Great thing to stock up on.

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Vote -1 Vote +1cj
February 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

David is right, silver is great stuff. Back before refrigeration, people put silver coins in the milk jugs to keep the milk fresh. Babies were given silver spoons and cups because silver is a good anti-bacterial. Grapefruit seed extract is another excellent anti-bacterial/anti-viral. Mix a few drops in water in a spray bottle to wipe down your counters. It is a good gargle mix for a sore throat and put a couple drops in juice or tea when you have a cold or flu. I am fascinated by what I am learning from herb books. The yarrow that grows wild in my back yard is actually good to stop bleeding wounds. The wild lettuce is good for insomnia, dandelion tea is good for indigestion, red raspberry leaves for healing intestines…. Amazing stuff!

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Vote -1 Vote +1Teri LeDantec-Boswell
February 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

Little chatter is being heard about a VERY serious ‘looming’ threat that is slowly sweeping the globe: H5N1. Officials describe this version of the’ bird flu’ as ‘highly pathogenic’ and reports list the mortality rate at 60%. However, by examining the current data, one can see that it has a 100% MORTALITY rate. It has a very slow development, and can take up to 3 weeks from exposure to symptom display. NOTE: Scientists @ UofWI, Madison have mutated this virus from bird-to-human to Human-to-Human in order to ‘study’ the virus; the government has issued a moratorium on the publication of this research. Read more at Los Angeles Times: plug in H5N1 and read about the controversy surrounding this research.
To better understand H5N1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_A_virus_subtype_H5N1
To track outbreaks/incidents: http://outbreaks.globalincidentmap.com/home.php

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Vote -1 Vote +1ND
March 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

If you’re concerned about not having water during a power outage and you have a well, our local well driller says he can install a hand pump so we can pump water directly into our pressure tank, if our arms don’t tire out. Up here in rural Oregon we have occasional outages but have no water source near us to be able to get buckets of water from a pond or pool for flushing.

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