The Swine Flu

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, 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.

16 Responses to “The Swine Flu”

  • anti-sara Says:

    Sara on gun safety:
    The most important thing you can do with guns and kids in the same house, is enroll in some kind of gun/hunter safety class.

    Sara on six weeks of post-Katrina style anarchy:
    You have a safe place to go to. If no one is going to work, and water and power and the like are gone…you can come to our house. We are on a well system, and have a generator…and one of us (Dad or myself) would go into the city and get you guys…no anarchy for you…also both Dad and I know how to handle a gun…don’t tell my liberal friends, of my status as a borderline socialist will be revoked. 🙂

  • shannon Says:

    “I know how to handle a gun”

    That is so hot.

    I didn’t take the well/generator thing into account! You’re right, that’s a very reassuring thought. Plus, safety in numbers!

  • Zach Says:

    What bout getting one of these “Grab-N-Go” packs? Should do the whole family for a couple weeks. That would be enough time to escape the hot zone.

    In addition to firearms you might consider some night vision equipment so you can hike out of the city at night before FEMA / DHS set up its quarantine perimeter and mandatory vaccination stations. You don’t want to get got.

  • Wendy Says:

    Holing up on a compound is definitely the way to go. In the event of anarchy, we are going to Erin and Bryan’s cause that’s where the guns are and their yard is big enough for a huge garden.

  • shannon Says:

    Zach — I love the idea but I’m raising an eyebrow at the price. Seems like I could assemble my own food stores for cheaper…

    Are you freaking out about this? I feel like I’m the only one I know freaking out even a *little*. It’s lonely.

  • Nina Says:

    You should join me in denial. I just can’t worry about swine flu right now.

    Until there’s word that it has actually mutated into something more dangerous, I am not going to think about it. We got all fussed about avian flu and SARS, too… I’m glad epidemiologists are worrying about it, but on the ground level I’m just waiting for more information. Also, did I mention denial? LALALALALA

  • Nina Says:

    also, i found this a bit reassuring:

  • shannon Says:

    I didn’t get fussed about avian flu or SARS. I think I’m fussed about this because it’s in San Francisco and I have a little boy. And I’m not *very* fussed. Just a little bit. Meanwhile everybody I know is being studiously cool about it. It’s…well…lonely.

  • Nina Says:

    oh, I didn’t mean you personally fussed, I just meant we as a society — light-up color-coded CNN maps and all.

    and please don’t believe I’m cool… just in denial. can’t think about bearing/raising baby in postapocalyptic Baltimore. just can’t.

    but not being in denial and preparing, as you are doing, is likely the wisest path.

  • shannon Says:

    Breaking update: I’ve retreated into Wonder Woman fantasies, which is no doubt much healthier.

    I am honestly glad you’re not stressing about this. It’s probably nonsense and it’s the last thing a pregnant lady needs to be worrying about. I guess I’m just bridling against the idea (not put forth by you! but by others) that anybody worried about this is *stupid*.

  • Madeline Says:

    I’m a bit worried about the flu, too. It’s not stupid. The article that Nina linked to is definitely reassuring, though. I’m not too concerned for myself, but since my kids are 4 and 1, that makes it a lot scarier.

    And hey, Nina, I didn’t know you were pregnant! Congrats! When are you due?

    Finally, I meant to mention a few posts back, Shannon, that I love reading your menu plans and seeing photos of your dinners. Your blog combines three of my big interests, namely parenting young children, cooking, and eating locally. It’s perfect!

  • Zach Says:

    @shannon No, I’m not freaking out about the flu itself. Hardly anyone is infected, and generally its effects are mild. What’s much more worrying is the vast, opportunistic over-reaction and panic-mongering by the media, health agencies, and govt(s). That /is/ freaking me out.

    I didn’t know you were preggers, either, btw. Congratulations!

  • Zach Says:

    Oh wait, I guess it’s Nina who is pregnant. Well, congratulations to Nina. I need to put on my reading spectacles before posting on these here blogs.

  • shannon Says:

    I’m not freaking out any more either. It only looked like it might be bad in first couple of days.

    And now I have a big grocery bag full of flu medicine, which may come in handy some day, who knows.

    Madeline — thank you! Glad I’m not just boring everyone to tears.

  • Nina Says:

    Madeline (and Zach, en passant), thank you! I’m due August 3. So excited.

  • Madeline Says:

    That’s wonderful, Nina!

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