Why (and What) I’m Stockpiling for the Swine Flu Pandemic

Scary Pig Head

I’m writing this post in part because I suspect it to be a little foolish to be stocking up on swine flu pandemic supplies, and in part because I fear it might be wise.

Later may be too late. To be clear, I’m not even close to certain that we will need to ride out an infrastructure-crippling pandemic flu. I’m thinking it’s a bit more likely than a zombie attack, and a lot less likely than a sure thing. I’m not an epidemeologist. I don’t even know one socially. So when I know for sure that there’s a problem, it will be when everyone else knows. And I figure that when that happens, some things — bottled water, canned goods — will disappear quickly. So I figured why not go ahead and put some aside.

If it’s not the swine flu, it may well be something. Tornado, bio weapon attack, zombies — I can’t think of a time when it will be a problem to have some bottled water, canned goods and meds stored up. Anyway, we’re writing down expiration dates and putting reminders on the calendar to use up things we haven’t needed.

In all seriousness, it’s pretty serious. People who lived through the 1957-1958 and 1968 – 1969 pandemics may have incorrect notions about how bad it can be. If anything like the 1918 pandemic hits, there won’t be hospital beds enough in the nation for those who need them — not even close — and people may need to keep their dead at home for days before anyone can pick them up. Our preparedness for a pandemic isn’t any better now than it was in 1918. In fact, it may be worse in a world where we rely on the quick delivery of food from around the globe (rather than from farms outside the cities they serve) to keep grocery stores stocked. And our disaster preparedness plans depend on first responders from unaffected areas, but of course, in the case of pandemic, there are no unaffected areas. So there is precious little in state and local government disaster plans to help against a pandemic.

What we’re buying: See Appendices C and D to this PDF — Influenza Pandemic Preparation and Response: A Citizen’s Guide. The pamphlet also describes how things might be in a 1918-style pandemic flu, and doesn’t really pull any punches. In addition to a section on putting your affairs in order, the “Symptoms/Assessment/Treatment” chart includes assessments like “Death is likely.”

AT and I were talking about how neither of us has ever felt prompted by the threat of emergency to stock up on supplies before, and we both have spent large chunks of our lives living in hurricane hangouts. I think in part it has to do with being a parent. A flu with a 2.5% chance of killing you? If you’re childless, you have to like those odds. But a flu that could incapacitate you when you’re needed to care for a child? Well it makes sense to be prepared, if possible.

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