I got a call from a concerned Pops and Mo yesterday, wanting to know if I was aware that swine flu has hit the Bay Area.
Yes. I’m aware. I went through a period of kind of freaking out about it, made a checklist of things to buy, read all I could about it, and ultimately calmed down. In 1918, which was a terrible flu pandemic, the mortality rate was 2.5%. In other words, most people didn’t die. Swine flu is, so far, doing an even worse job of killing people who are in good health and receiving quality care. (This is a very interesting article tackling the discrepancy between deaths in Mexico and deaths in the U.S., with the final conclusion that the swine flu is either highly virulent or spreads easily, but probably not both.)
So my top priority is being prepared to treat a mild flu case at home, so as to avoid overburdening a stressed medical system. I’m stocked up on electrolyte drinks and over-the-counter cold/flu medication for both children and adults. I also bought surgical masks and gloves, but I don’t think I can get Sam to wear them on the train. He has agreed to wash his hands upon entering the house, and I’m doing the same when we get back from the park and shopping trips.
I’m kind of sorry now that Robin is weaned. When he was sick in Reno breastmilk was the first thing he could keep down. Plus there’s the whole system where antibodies can be shared through breastmilk. But there we are.
The worst-case apocalypse pandemic scenario is not so much that everybody drops dead and the bodies pile up in the streets, but that enough people are badly ill that hospitals are totally overwhelmed, nobody goes to work, basic services like water and electricity go out, and we get about six weeks of post-Katrina style anarchy. It’s really hard to be prepared for this. Because we live in an earthquake-prone area we try to be prepared for 72 hours without water or electricity: I, quite fortunately, recently won an emergency preparation kit from Wendolonia.com, which is even now winging its way towards me, and on top of this we have some basic stores of water and canned goods and first-aid supplies.
But six weeks and 72 hours are vastly different critters. We just can’t plan on staying inside for six weeks. What I really want to buy for the worst-case scenario—the single piece of equipment that would keep us safest throughout a long emergency situation—is a gun.
I know my liberal family is probably gasping in horror at this, and believe me, I’m aware that having a gun in a house with small children introduces day-to-day risks much larger than the risk of fending off looters in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. But responsible storage (keeping the gun and the ammo locked up in separate safes to which only we have the combination) can largely eliminate those risks, and a gun would protect us in all kinds of long emergency situations, from pandemic to devastating earthquake/tsunami to zombie attack to Peak Oil.
It’s something we’re thinking about. And meanwhile, we’re washing our hands a lot.
Updated to add: A lot of people seem to be worried about the effects of swine flu on the economy. I think it’s only fair to note that I dropped $120 at Rite-Aid on my huge bag of anti-swine-flu supplies. They were decked out to capitalize on this thing too. They had a big shelf of flu meds and Airborne/immune boosters out front and center. Smart of them.