Swine Flu has already killed over 149 people in Mexico. Forty confirmed cases have been reported in five States. Here's how and why you now need to prepare your car for the Swine Flupocalypse.
Scientists estimate that the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic killed between 20 and 100 million people worldwide. Most of its victims were healthy young adults. It spread everywhere from densely populated cities to isolated islands in the South Pacific. The virus is thought to have spread to one billion people worldwide, half the world's population at the time.
Since then, health care has been improved dramatically, but governments and medical officials worldwide fear another influenza pandemic could still drastically impact the world's population. Each year, garden-variety influenza still kills 36,000 people in America and 250 to 500,000 people worldwide. The current Swine Flu, or H1N1 influenza virus outbreak is so scary because it looks like the virus has evolved from one affecting pigs to one affecting humans, meaning we have no natural immunity to it. If, as it seems is occurring, Swine Flu can be transmitted between humans, then the potential exists for it to be the next global pandemic.
Already a key part of your everyday life, your car can prove an invaluable asset during a public health crisis such as the one that could be caused by Swine Flu. Here's 10 easy steps you can take to turn it into a mobile Swine Flu survival tool.
1.) Use Your Car
Viruses are spread by direct human-to-human contact, through the air in coughs and sneezes or by touching infected surfaces. By using your car instead of buses, trains, planes or walking, you automatically reduce your chances of infection. Keep your windows up and your A/C on.
2.) Turn Your Car Into A Mobile Disinfectant Station
Stock up on an alcohol-based liquid hand disinfectant such as Purell. Use it every time you get into the car, particularly after touching things other people have such as gas pumps, door handles, gas station bathrooms etc. Insist that passengers and family members do the same, particularly children. Since most cars don't have sinks, this is the best way to wash your hands on the move.
Clean exterior surfaces such as door handles, windows and anything else you might touch with a disinfectant spray or wipes, such as Lysol, regularly. Do the same for all interior surfaces. It's probably a good idea to go ahead and do a thorough job now, that way it'll be easier to clean those surfaces going forward.
3.) Install A HEPA Filter
Some new cars such as Mercedes and Volvos filter air coming into the cabin through a HEPA filter already. Check with the manufacturer to see if your car has one, replace it if its more than a year old. Aftermarket HEPA filters are widely available as direct replacement or as stand-alone units.
High Efficiency Particulate Air filters were invented for use on the Manhattan Project to trap radioactive particulates. Modern HEPA filters are widely used in medical facilities to trap and, in conjunction with ultraviolet lights, kill viruses. While HEPA filters in cars should be capable of trapping tiny viruses, they'll be even more effective at trapping droplets of spit, mucous and dander that those viruses are transmitted on.
4.) Carry General Emergency Supplies
While its unlikely that Swine Flu will cause a complete breakdown in social order, it is possible that a widespread outbreak could overtax healthcare and emergency services. If things get really bad you need to expect and prepare for longer response times from emergency responders and the possibility of long lines at emergency rooms. Taking advantage of your car's storage space to carry a comprehensive first aid kit and other supplies will help you cope with any unrelated emergency that might occur.
A basic list of essentials should include:
- Comprehensive first aid kit including: bandages, pain killers, any specific medication for pre-existing conditions, scissors, alcohol swabs, calamine lotion, soap, hydrogen peroxide, hydrocortisone cream, tweezers, instant cold packs and a first aid manual.
- Copies of insurance certificates, passports and other important documents.
- Rechargeable flashlight and spare batteries.
- Blankets for each family member (space blankets work).
- One gallon of fresh water for each person in the car.
- Nonperishable food supplies (a couple boxes of Cliff Bars are a great solution).
- List of local emergency facilities and contact numbers including contact numbers for your doctor(s), relatives, friends, schools and offices.
- Comprehensive regional map.
- Sturdy shoes for each family member.
- Clothing appropriate for inclement weather (disposable parkas are perfect).
- Survival knife or hatchet.
- Fire Extinguisher.
- Climbing rope.
- A cheap, pay-as-you-go cell phone with plenty of credit.
- Comprehensive toolkit and a spare tire in good condition and fully inflated.
- $500 in small bills.
- Wind-up Emergency band radio.
- A backpack capable of carrying most of the above.
- Car repair manual for your specific vehicle.
- Motor oil.
- Spare fuses, fan belt and other common consumables specific to your vehicle.
5.) Write Down A Specific Emergency Response Plan
Create and make copies of a specific emergency response plan for your family. Who picks up the kids? Where do you meet? Where will you go? In an emergency, cell phone networks can become overburdened. If you have a specific plan in place beforehand you'll save time and therefore, potentially lives.
6.) Stock Up On Anti-Infection gear And Keep It In Your Car
If Swine Flu becomes a widespread epidemic, it may be prudent to take specific anti-infection steps such as wearing face masks, or, in extreme circumstances, maybe even medical shoe covers and nitrile gloves. Buy plenty, keep them in your trunk and dispose of them each time you enter your car. Combined with disinfectant, this could help create a valuable system to prevent infection.
7.) Keep Your Car In good running Order
This sounds like common sense, but it could save your life. Make sure your tires have plenty of tread, keep up with your service schedule, ensure oil and coolant levels remain high and never go below 3/4 tank of gas. Should the need for evacuation or travel ever arise, you'll be prepared.
8.) Keep A Spare Key Somewhere Safe
Mount a spare key into a hidden and secure location underneath your car. Make sure all family members know where it is. If your keys include a remote key fob, seal it in a waterproof container. Make sure the location you choose cannot be easily detected and make sure you mount it securely so it stays in place over rough roads, in bad weather and at high speeds. If your life depends on your car, you don't want to find yourself without a key, especially in modern cars with alarms/immobilizers and other electronic systems.
9.) Buy Oseltamivir, Keep In Car
Oseltamivir is an antiviral drug that can treat Influenza A viruses, of which Swine Flu is a member. After the H5N1 Avian Flu scare, the government stocked up on Oseltamivir in addition to disinfectants and other basic epidemic supplies. But do you and your family members want to wait in line at an Emergency Room among infected patients for your dose? Oseltamivir is most effective when administered within 48 hours of the first systems. Cut out the middleman, keep it in your car and take it at the first signs of flu-like symptoms: aches in the joints and throat, fever, fatigue, headache, irritated eyes, abdominal pain, coughing and sneezing. Tamiflu is just Oseltamivir, but manufactured by Roche.
10.) Don't Panic!
If there's one thing people as a group aren't good at, it's coping with an emergency situation. Take advantage of the fact that you're more prepared than most to take a step back, analyze the situation and decide the most effective way to respond. If roads are already gridlocked, don't set out on them. But, if you follow the above steps and it does come time to head for the hills, you'll have a head start.