Infectious Disease

/Infectious Disease

Survival medicine for infectious diseases.

Your Disaster Decontamination Guide: Step-by-Step Mega Cleaning

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH This is part 2 in the universal-precautions series. See part 1—your disaster fashion guide—here.  Imagine there’s a long-term disaster. An infectious disease has broken out. It could be something as common as a stomach virus or as devastating as Ebola. When medical care is scarce, either could be deadly … and both involve the expulsion of infectious fluids, such as diarrhea (and, in Ebola’s case, blood). Two of your family members have gotten the disease. It’s up to you to care for them. So you put on your “personal protective equipment” and get to work. But when you get a break from your caregiving responsibilities, there’s another step you need to take to better protect yourself from the disease. It’s part two of the “universal precautions.”  (Part one was putting on that protective gear.) You need to disinfect your environment. How to Clean Up Blood and Other Potentially Infectious Fluids Disinfecting your surroundings means not just wiping up blood, vomit, and other fluids but cleaning them up in such a way that you kill all the contagious germs they’ve put into your environment. Here are six steps to take toward doing that: […]

By | April 21st, 2014|Infectious Disease|21 Comments

Your Disaster Fashion Guide: The Outfit That Fights Diseases

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. […]

By | April 14th, 2014|Infectious Disease|17 Comments

Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak. 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, what is Ebola? Could it come here? If so, how do I prevent it? […]

By | April 7th, 2014|Infectious Disease|20 Comments

Long-Term-Disaster Diseases Part II: 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. […]

By | February 24th, 2014|Infectious Disease|19 Comments

The Top-8 Medical Uses for Vodka

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. […]

By | February 10th, 2014|Cuts, Infectious Disease, Skin|25 Comments

Typhus Hits “Revolution”: Could It Hit Here?

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? […]

By | February 3rd, 2014|Infectious Disease|26 Comments

WV Water Nightmare: Why Activated Charcoal May Not Work

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.” […]

By | January 20th, 2014|Infectious Disease|36 Comments

H1N1: Your Flu Questions, Answered

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.) […]

By | January 15th, 2014|Infectious Disease|16 Comments

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. […]

By | December 16th, 2013|Cold, Infectious Disease|6 Comments

5 In-Home Treatments for Food Poisoning

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. […]

By | November 25th, 2013|Infectious Disease|22 Comments