What You Need to Know: Two Essentials of a Disease Outbreak

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Person pouring pills into their handIn 1633, smallpox was brought to North America and decimated over 70 percent of the Native American population. In 1793, yellow fever caused at least 5,000 deaths and the evacuation of Philadelphia. From 1832 to 1866, cholera hit New York City causing multiple deaths per day. Even today, cholera is responsible for at least 100,000 deaths worldwide according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The latter are just a few examples of disease outbreaks with grave consequences that have affected America over the years. Although vaccines, agricultural regulations, and overall healthcare has improved substantially, disease outbreaks are still a current threat.

Emergency professionals, like those at the CDC, protect America by preventing and preparing for potential disease outbreaks. They raise disease awareness through educating people about the risks of an outbreak and how to weather an ongoing epidemic. Similar to other emergency situations such as floods or hurricanes, emergency management professionals advise that every household should have additional supplies and a plan in case of an unforeseen outbreak.

What is a Disease Outbreak?

A disease outbreak, or pandemic, is the rapid spread of illness throughout living things. Infectious diseases are communicable by touch, air, food, and water which makes them extremely dangerous. Recent disease control developments have prevented major outbreaks such as smallpox, but new diseases appear frequently that are uninhibited by common defenses.

According to a CDC resource, ten outbreaks of human Salmonella infections have been reported between January 4, 2017 and June 20, 2017. Appearing in 48 states, at least 174 hospitalizations have been reported due to salmonella infection. Fortunately, there have been no lethal cases, but it is a clear sign that disease outbreaks are far from being eradicated. Emergency management professionals agree that prevention is the best defense against pandemics as well as preparation if, for whatever reason, preventative methods fail.

Emergency Supplies Preparation

Emergencies are unique, varying in severity and duration. Disease outbreaks can be localized or widespread, and either cause minor sickness or hospitalization. CDC professionals suggest that preparation should be based on the worst-case scenario which may include seclusion for three days or longer. An emergency supplies cache can be based on the needs for three days or longer, depending on how prepared someone wants to be.

Water, food, and medication is paramount in emergency supplies. If people are quarantined to their homes, they won’t be able to make trips out for life essentials. Emergency supplies need to include a gallon of water per person per day to ensure proper hydration. Maintaining health during an outbreak is important, and staying hydrated supports the immune system. Canned foods, pastas, and freeze-dried foods can be stored for years, and they don’t require a large amount of storage space.

If any household members use prescription drugs, then at least three days’ worth need to be stored for emergencies. Additionally, non-prescription drugs such as pain relievers, stomach medicines, and cold medicines such be included in case of unforeseen ailments. Along with medicines, hard and digital copies of medical records should be included in the emergency supplies in case an evacuation is required.

In addition to the essentials, other fundamentals include: hygiene products, first aid kits, battery powered radios, extra cash, and an emergency plan. An emergency plan keeps everyone organized and on the same page by indicating evacuation routes, rendezvous locations, and emergency contacts. It can be dangerous to be unprepared during a disease outbreak, so emergency kits must be kept fresh in case something goes awry.

Actions During an Outbreak

Emergency situations, regardless of type, induce widespread panic and fear. People worry about themselves and their loved ones, and may act irrationally in severe conditions. That’s why emergency management professionals suggest creating an emergency plan. Following a plan can help people remain calm because it gives them responsibilities and duties to perform. The most vital responsibility everyone shares is ceasing the infectious spread during a disease outbreak. If people can prevent the disease from spreading, the quicker the pandemic will halt.

Practices such as washing hands, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, and stifling coughs or sneezes with a tissue can prevent disease spread. Hygiene becomes a top priority, including stress levels. High stress can compromise the immune system, therefore calm attitudes are beneficial to a stress-laden environment.

Become the First Line of Defense

The Center for Disease Control hires those who are passionate about emergency management to help create a better, disease-free future. Keeping America safe from dangerous pandemics is a complex job, and it requires everyone’s help if disease is to be permanently eradicated. Being prepared and knowing what to do can make the difference during a disease outbreak, and it’s the professionals responsibility to educate the country on their duties.

Learn More

Earning a master’s in emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University can help you increase your knowledge of the safety industry and demonstrate a continued commitment to learning and leadership. Whether you aspire to work at the governmental level or move into the private sector, our distinguished faculty of safety professionals delivers a comprehensive curriculum that can translate wherever safety matters most.

Recommended Readings:

4 Ways Big Data is Revolutionizing Emergency Management

5 Questions to Ask About Your Emergency Action Plan

4 Important Grant Programs for Emergency Preparedness and Relief