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Your Disaster Fashion Guide: The Outfit That Fights Diseases

Your Disaster Fashion Guide: The Outfit That Fights Diseases | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Back when I was growing up, I don’t think the phrase “universal precautions” was in a health care worker’s vocabulary. Now, we’re well-versed in such “precautions”—techniques that help prevent spreading diseases. But back then, people were more lax.

We lived more like you might live at home with your family today—which is not like you’d want to live during a disaster.

Back then, sure, people with highly contagious diseases were isolated, but few health care workers were afraid of getting a little blood on them from someone with no obvious illness. (Of course they should have been because people did get hepatitis from contaminated needle sticks, cuts, etc.)

Even when I was in training, I knew of a pathologist who examined surgical specimens gloveless so he could get a feel of the texture.

Then came AIDS, and everything changed.

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Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak. Could It Spread Here?

Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak Happening Now: Could It Spread Here?

A field technician demonstrates protective gear in Zaire during the first Ebola outbreak in 1976.

This is the third post in my “Long-Term Disaster Diseases” series. See the rest here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A new outbreak of Ebola is going on in Africa, and Doctors Without Borders is calling it “an epidemic of a magnitude never seen before”—not because of the number of cases or deaths. There have been more in previous outbreaks. It’s because of how the disease is spreading.

In the past, Ebola has always stayed confined to a small region. This time the same strain of the virus has been found infecting people several hundred miles from the original area.

The questions on the minds of many people who don’t live in Africa are, could it come here? If so, how do I prevent it?

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Long-Term-Disaster Diseases Part II: Typhoid Fever

What Is Typhoid Fever?

Some diseases that aren’t a big problem in the most industrialized nations now could become a problem during a long-term disaster. This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing about such diseases. See part one, on typhus, here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

We don’t hear much about typhoid fever in the United States. To most of us, it’s a mysterious disease that we know is serious, but we’re not sure what it looks like. Is it even really a fever?

We need to be able to recognize it, though, because in certain conditions during a long-term disaster, it could spread rapidly. And proper early treatment dramatically lowers your risk of dying from it.

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The Top-8 Medical Uses for Vodka

The Top-8 Medical Uses for Vodka | The Survival Doctor

Previously the top-7 medical uses!

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Thursday, the U.S. government banned liquids, including gels, in carry-ons to Russia. That means hand sanitizers. That means hand sanitizers that reporters and visitors on their way to Sochi for the Olympics probably packed because of tales of contaminated water.

What to do? Even if you didn’t put sanitizer in your checked bag and Russia’s all sold out when you get there, remember, this country just so happens to be famous for … its vodka. Vodka is about 40 percent alcohol. Alcohol kills germs. So in a pinch, vodka = medical supply.

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Typhus Hits “Revolution”: Could It Hit Here?

A mask won't help here. Just avoid the lice.

Part 1 in the “Long-Term-Disaster Diseases” series.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A doctor goes into this tent full of people who look deathly ill, some coughing. He comes out in about a minute and proclaims they all have typhus.

Good diagnostician. But is it realistic? Could you tell that quickly whether people have this disease? And how dangerous is it?

This scene is from the NBC television series Revolution, which is about how a bunch of people cope with life after the grid goes down—permanently. No electricity of any sort. It got me to thinking about typhus since an outbreak is a real possibility in a prolonged disaster situation. In fact, a couple of forms of it are not that uncommon in the United States right now. And in some other countries it’s much more widespread, especially Africa.

So, let’s start at the beginning. What is typhus?

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WV Water Nightmare: Why Activated Charcoal May Not Work

WV Water Nightmare: Why Even Home Distilling Wouldn’t Work to Remove Chemicals From Drinking Water

Note: This post has a correction. Scroll to the bottom to view.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Regarding the recent chemical spill preventing over 300,000 people in West Virginia from using their water, I wrote on Facebook about water purification, “unfortunately, I know of no improvisational method that removes chemicals.”

Some commenters suggested distilling could in fact do just that. Others wondered about activated charcoal.

Excellent suggestions, especially in a situation where there’s no expert alternative. What I should have written was, “I know of no method that reliably moves all chemicals.”

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H1N1: Your Flu Questions, Answered

H1N1: The Survival Doctor Answers Your Flu Questions

Bonus post for the week, published now due to timeliness.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

The flu is in full swing, and this year, H1N1 is back. The virus previously known as swine flu, which caused the 2009 pandemic, is causing most of the infections in 2014 too.

H1N1 is a particularly bad strain, and people are hearing all sorts of things about it—and have all sorts of questions. So I asked via Facebook and Twitter what you want to know. You responded with a lot of great questions. In this video, I answer many of the ones specifically about H1N1. For even more answers about the flu, scroll down. (If the answer to your question isn’t here, I apologize. I addressed as many as I could.)

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Is It a Cold or the Flu? How to Tell the Difference

Is It a Cold or the Flu? How to Tell the Difference

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

One reason colds and the flu spread during winter is the same reason they’ll spread during a disaster: There are lots of crowds. Respiratory infections don’t care whether you’re in an emergency shelter after a flood or a crowded mall the week before Christmas; they’re just thrilled about the opportunity to multiply.

As such, it’s a good idea to be able to differentiate a common cold from the full-blown flu. Why? Because usually with a cold, you get over it no matter what you do. The flu can be different, and the complications can be deadly.

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5 In-Home Treatments for Food Poisoning

How to Treat Food Poisoning (and Why Medicine Can Make It Worse)

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

What does food poisoning have to do with the holidays? If you don’t know, then you’ve been rather lucky. Plenty of food, cooked hours ahead of time, left out? Leftovers not refrigerated promptly? Bacteria paradise.

Omit the part about the plenty of food, and add unreliable refrigeration, and the same thing could happen during a disaster. No, not the one where the turkey burns or where you leave Uncle Joe and Cousin Willie in the same room too long. I’m talking about the kind when the electricity goes out.

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In the News: Dangers of Combining Two Popular Medications

In the News: Dangers of Combining Two Popular Medications

(This is a bonus post this week due to the timeliness of the topic.)

An example of clarithromycin.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Some of my readers stock up on antibiotics. (Read more about doing that in my free report about medical supplies.) Whenever you’re storing prescription meds for disaster prep, remember that there are reasons these medications are tightly regulated. In other words, be careful. For one thing, some of them can have serious interactions with other medications.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reminds us of this. Canadian researchers reconfirmed that taking a calcium-channel blocker and the antibiotic clarithromycin (Biaxin) together can cause serious side effects, including a dangerous lowering of blood pressure, kidney damage, and even death.

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