There are plenty of threats that people associate with a major disaster. Infection, however, is rarely one of the first threats to come to mind. Nevertheless, it is one of the most dangerous. In the absence of modern medicine and modern conveniences, deadly infections will run rampant, potentially killing millions of people.
Below is a list of the most common deadly infections you are likely to contend with after the SHTF, as well as how to treat them. If you are squeamish, then be warned that the lists of symptoms below could put some disgusting images in your head, but this information is very important considering how many people are likely to die from infections in an SHTF scenario.
Dysentery is a colon infection that can be caused by a number of things including bacteria, parasites, viruses, and even protozoa.
Symptoms of dysentery include severe diarrhea, bloody stool, abdominal pain, and fever. The infection is spread mostly through the consumption of contaminated food or water, though it can also be spread by coming into contact with someone who has the infection.
If you come down with dysentery, your first and foremost goal should be to stay hydrated. Diarrhea alone kills countless people each year because of the dehydration it causes, meaning it’s essential that you drink plenty of fluids, not only to flush out the infection but also to avoid dehydration.
You’ll also want to take antibiotics and/or diarrhea pills if you have them. To prevent coming down with dysentery, be sure to boil your drinking water and only eat food from trusted sources.
Like dysentery, cholera is a gastral infection that is contracted by drinking contaminated water. Rather than infecting the colon, though, cholera is an infection of the small intestine.
The symptoms of cholera include severe diarrhea that is clear/white in color and vomiting clear fluid. As with dysentery, the biggest threat of cholera is the dehydration and electrolyte imbalance caused by fluid loss through vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, about half of individuals who come down with cholera will die from the infection.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of cholera, be sure to stay hydrated and take antibiotics and diarrhea pills. To avoid cholera, boil or otherwise purify all the water you drink and only eat from food sources that you trust.
Norovirus is a highly contagious gastral infection that can be spread through the air as well as through the consumption of contaminated food and water.
Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, and abdominal pain. There is no vaccine or proven treatment for norovirus, and the recommended treatment is simply supportive care such as resting and drinking plenty of fluids.
To avoid norovirus, be sure to purify your water and eat only trusted food sources, though given how contagious this infection is, it can be difficult to avoid even if these measures are taken.
Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that can be brought on by a number of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In most cases, the diseases that could lead to pneumonia are treated and eliminated before pneumonia ever has a chance to take hold. If left untreated, though, non-fatal colds and cases of flu can quickly turn into fatal pneumonia.
Symptoms of pneumonia include sharp chest pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever, and chills. If the lungs fill up with too much fluid due to pneumonia, the infection could be fatal.
If you come down with pneumonia, it is best treated with a combination of antibiotics as well as oxygen in order to make up for the reduced amount of air you are able to inhale. The best treatment for pneumonia, however, is prevention.
Treat every cold and flu seriously no matter how minor it may seem and do your best to knock it out before it is able to transition into a case of pneumonia.
In the developed world, tetanus is quite uncommon. Being punctured by a rusty metal object certainly isn’t an everyday occurrence, and even if you do suffer an injury that makes tetanus a concern, tetanus vaccines are readily available.
However, in a disaster scenario where the likelihood of an unsanitary injury is much higher and access to the vaccine is no longer an option, tetanus becomes a much more serious concern.
Symptoms of tetanus include difficulty swallowing, stiffness in the neck and jaw, fever, high blood pressure, and sweating. If untreated, tetanus can make it extremely difficult to breathe, eventually leading to death.
In the absence of a tetanus vaccine, antibiotics can be used to treat tetanus with varying degrees of effectiveness. The best way to treat tetanus, though, in the absence of a vaccine is to try and prevent it by thoroughly cleaning any wound with alcohol or another antiseptic and covering it with a bandage.
Thanks to modern medicine, tuberculosis cases are extraordinarily rare in developed countries. In the developing world, though, tuberculosis is still a common and dangerous killer. Should a major disaster set the country back to a third-world state, tuberculosis could make a frightening comeback.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include blood-tinged coughing, night sweats, fever, and weight loss. Compared to most deadly diseases, though, the symptoms of tuberculosis can appear minor at first, making them hard to spot. Tuberculosis is a slow killer, but it is an efficient one nevertheless.
In the absence of modern medicine, there is no proven treatment for tuberculosis. Unless the right antibiotics are administered at the right times on the right schedule, the infection will develop an antibiotic resistance and become impossible to cure. This makes avoiding tuberculosis the best course of action in an SHTF scenario.
Take precautions when you’re around other people, especially if they are exhibiting signs of tuberculosis such as a bloody cough.
Many efforts have been taken within the agricultural industry and water sanitation industry to prevent the spread of the deadly bacteria E.coli. In a scenario where people begin to get their food and water from less trustworthy sources, though, E.coli infection becomes a major concern.
Symptoms of E.coli infection include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and a fever in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, E.coli infections can often be treated with only home care, making this one of the more survivable diseases that you are likely to encounter in a disaster scenario. Plenty of fluids and bed rest is most likely all it will take to ride out the infection.
To prevent coming down with an E.coli infection in the first place, boil or otherwise purify your water and try to only eat food from trusted sources.
Modern medicine has almost wiped out the threat of measles entirely, and the World Health Organization projects that the disease could be eliminated completely by as early as 2020. Should a major setback come between now and then, measles would be poised for a deadly comeback.
Measles is highly contagious, meaning that all it would take for an outbreak is a few infected individuals in a world where measles vaccines are no longer prevalent.
Symptoms of measles include pain in the muscles, a skin rash, fever, sore throat, and a cough. Measles can also lead to blindness, encephalitis, and fatal respiratory infections. Short of preventing measles with a vaccine, there is no proven treatment for the infection. Fever reducers and vitamin A can be used to reduce its symptoms, though.
The best course of action for avoiding measles in the event of an outbreak is to follow good hygiene practices and avoid anyone with a skin rash resembling that caused by measles.
Even today and even in modern countries, the flu is incredibly common. What sets this infection apart and makes it so difficult to prevent is the rate at which it mutates. Every year, a new flu vaccine must be developed in order to prevent the latest mutation, and even then there is a lot of guesswork involved in regards to which form the virus will take.
There are two factors, however, that make the flu much more of a concern in an SHTF scenario: lack of vaccines and lack of treatment. In a scenario where the healthcare community is unable to develop a vaccine for the flu’s latest mutation, flu outbreaks are likely to become much more common. If left untreated, the flu can be fatal – especially in the elderly and the young.
Symptoms of the flu include aching muscles, chills, fever, sweating, and congestion.
All of this is bad enough, but it also assumes that the flu will take a form similar to the form it takes each year. The reality is, there are much more serious forms that the flu can take. In 1918, the Spanish flu infected an estimated 500 million people – one-third of the world’s population – and killed an estimated 50 million of those that it infected.
There is another strain of flu, though, that could dwarf the lethality of the Spanish flu – avian flu. The mortality rate of avian flu sits at a terrifying 60% – and that’s with modern medicine and appropriate treatment.
The only thing keeping avian flu from being a world-ending threat is the fact that it is very difficult to spread. However, a few mutations could change that in a matter of years.
Suffice it to say that the flu will be a major concern in an SHTF scenario, even if it is in its common, easily treatable form. If, however, we are hit with a pandemic of a flu strain such as avian flu in a world already crippled by another disaster, the results could easily be apocalyptic.