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How to Survive an Influenza Pandemic: The Long Term

Updated on August 19, 2012

Time to Hit the Road

If you have a vehicle like this, then you're already ahead of the game.
If you have a vehicle like this, then you're already ahead of the game. | Source

Leaving Home

For 14 weeks you’ve managed to hide safely within the confines of your own home, but there will come a time when you will have to leave. Don’t overburden yourself with material valuables, simply pack food and water. You’ll need food that’s easy to prepare and contain a high amount of calories, similar perhaps to what a mountaineer would pack for a long hike. Think about biscuits, cookies, peanut butter, jam, honey and crackers, anything that contains high amounts of carbohydrates and protein. You’ll need some sort of shelter, so pack things like tents, tarps and bed bags. The world is now an extremely dangerous place, so you’ll need to arm yourself; if you don’t have a gun handy then a kitchen knife will suffice. Make sure you keep hold of things like bank account details, I.D. and passports, in the hope that in the long term things will return to normal.

If you live in the city or the suburbs, you’ll need to get out into the country. But you’ll likely find it difficult as most of the major roads will be choked with stationary traffic. Some of the cars may even contain people who passed away while trying to escape. You may come across, what at first looks like a police or military road block, it may look real. But the likelihood is that the people are masquerading as authority figures. Usually, the way to tell is to check whether the people are wearing uniforms and also observe their behaviour, if they appear aggressive, drive away as fast as you can.

At this point, the best policy may be to avoid roads altogether and resort to travelling on foot. Of course, there’s little chance that you’ll be able to carry as much as you did in the car, so that bag will need to be stripped down to just the bare essentials, travel as lightly as possible. Don’t take any risks, as any injury will no doubt result in death. You’ll probably be joined by hordes of people, all travelling in the same direction, stripping the countryside as they go. It’s likely that certain areas, particularly those close to water will become swamped with people.

The Most Vulnerable of All

In most cases children are the most vulnerable members of society. That vulnerability increases in the wake of disaster. So if you have children with you, make sure you give them enough love and support.
In most cases children are the most vulnerable members of society. That vulnerability increases in the wake of disaster. So if you have children with you, make sure you give them enough love and support. | Source

Three Days Later

While walking is undoubtedly safer, it’s also highly inefficient, progress is slow, and in areas with high temperatures fatigue arrives quicker leading to the possibility of poor decisions and more risks. If you’re experiencing a significant amount of fatigue at this point, try to locate another vehicle once you’re clear of the city. There is a high chance that if you do find another vehicle, that there will be a dead body inside. I know it’s totally disgusting but you’ll have to remove the body. Try to think about your own survival and of your family if they are with you. Search the body for any keys, don’t worry about contracting the virus, as firstly you cannot catch a flu virus from a dead body and secondly of course, the pandemic has burned itself out. If you can’t find any keys, you’ll have to resort to hot wiring the car.

By now, the only people left are pretty savvy in terms of practicality and have either learnt or acquired new skills along the way. So, by using your wits and resourcefulness you’ve picked up another vehicle, and are once again back on the road. Eventually though, you may come across small towns or villages, the communities living in these places will go to great measures to defend their homes by preventing outsiders from spreading germs or exploiting resources. It may sound cruel to a society built on foundations of helpfulness and trust. But a good analogy is, imagine a lifeboat full to the brim, but there are still people in the water, do you pick them up or leave them? If you leave them, they die, but you and the other people in the boat survive. If you pick them up however, they could flood the lifeboat and kill everybody.

If you have children with you, they will need a tremendous amount of love and support, their welfare can add to your stress making both you and them more vulnerable. Soon, it will begin to dawn on you that virtually everywhere in this new world is extremely dangerous, further adding to the stress you may already feel.

A Potential Goldmine

Warehouses like this could be potential lifesavers. But be wary of the fact that somebody may have got there first.
Warehouses like this could be potential lifesavers. But be wary of the fact that somebody may have got there first. | Source

Week 17

Seventeen weeks after the initial outbreak and deaths are still occurring across the globe. Most of the survivors have now abandoned cities in search of food. If you’re in an area that is very arid and dry, you must conserve water for drinking only, even if it means doing without washing. The obvious result of a lack of water is dehydration, which clouds judgement and impedes rationalism. Try to stick to small roads if possible, also in order to find food and water, think about looking for warehouses, depot centres and industrial complexes; these may have been overlooked by the people that looted the shops.

As you approach them, always remain cautious, even if they seem deserted, expect risks and try to plan an escape route in case the worst should happen. There is a reasonable chance that some gangs may have already sought these places and claimed them as their own. The leaders will effectively become Kings. It’s highly doubtful that they’ll just give you the resources out of kindness; you’ll need to make them an offer. Don’t waste your time with paper money, there’s no such thing as banks now. They’ll probably demand jewellery, hand over any jewellery by all means, but don’t expect them to reciprocate, and there’s little point in arguing, as you’ll probably end up dead.

At this juncture, you have two choices, either make peace with the King by offering to work for him, or be heroic and try to steal the food by finding the backdoor. If you do decide to be heroic, you may be forced to take a life, which is one of the most difficult things you can do, especially if you’re close enough to see their face. It will be a life changing experience, you’ll feel traumatised and nauseous, and nothing will be the same again.

Travelling on even the smallest roads always runs the risk of confronting a heavily armed gang, willing to do anything to obtain fuel for their own vehicle. You could always try to fight your way out, but really it’s best to remain as invisible as possible. Plus a conflict could harm either you or your family, so it’s best to abandon the vehicle to its fate and hide. The gang will probably strip the vehicle of everything valuable, rendering it useless. You’re forced to once again travel on foot.

The Work of Man

This field of barley is sustained entirely by irrigation in the form of water pumped from rivers or lakes.
This field of barley is sustained entirely by irrigation in the form of water pumped from rivers or lakes. | Source

Ray Mears Shows you How to Make a Fire.

Week 18

Due to a lack of irrigation, fields soon become wastelands, crops begin to die and any surviving livestock become desperate. The lack of fuel means that any sort of mechanised agriculture is impossible. The entire globe is caught in the grip of a devastating famine that is still claiming lives. Now, without the comfort of a vehicle you will need to resort to basic foraging or looting. Check out any houses and farms for any leftover edible morsels, most fresh food will have gone off by now, so think about anything stored in tins. Do not eat, unless you have access to water, because water is vital for digesting your food properly. Check anywhere that stores water including water tanks, swimming pools and even car engines. You will probably have to collect water that you would normally turn your nose up at, but dirty water can be rendered safe by either filtering it or by building a fire and boiling it. Boiling the water is probably the best method, as the heat helps to kill harmful bacteria.

If however, you find food hard to come by, the risk of starvation rises, you become increasingly lethargic; develop erratic mood swings, after just a few days the hunger pains disappear. Once you begin to lose your eyesight then that’s a sign that you’ve entered the critical phase of starvation. In order to prevent this from happening, be prepared to eat things like insects, pretty disgusting, but pound for pound they contain more protein than beef. Some people may resort to eating pets, although I find it unlikely that they will eat their own.

When checking apparently deserted houses, be on the lookout for strange children, as they can be quite ruthless towards strangers. Evidence from famine stricken countries in Africa often reports that abandoned children are the most dangerous people in a famine.

Week 19

If you’re not content with insects, you could try catching a snake, regardless of whether they are venomous or not, the best method for killing them is to pin it down with a stick and smash it on the head. An important thing to consider if you’re travelling with others is the likelihood that one of your party may not want to eat wild food, choosing to die instead. Remember the will to survival comes from within, if people don’t want to survive, then they won’t. It’s really very difficult to deal with this situation, the only thing you could do was to try and keep a lookout for anyone travelling in a car alone or anyone who appears friendly to come to your aid. Even in this new world, there will still be friendly and helpful people around.

Would You Eat This?

Most of us would never eat a grub normally. But in a survival situation, they could save your life. They contain more protein than beef pound for pound.
Most of us would never eat a grub normally. But in a survival situation, they could save your life. They contain more protein than beef pound for pound. | Source

What a New Life Might Look Like?

The Amish still use technology dating back to the 17th and 18th century. It's likely that we will revert back to this sort of life, if we lose modern technology.
The Amish still use technology dating back to the 17th and 18th century. It's likely that we will revert back to this sort of life, if we lose modern technology. | Source

Another Vision of the Future

Week 20

Okay, so let’s imagine that you were picked up by a kind stranger and they ferried you to a small town, where you were given a house to live in. Order would have been restored quickly in the town; the borders would be well protected and strict limits would be placed on who enters and exits. It would very much hark back to the frontier days in North America, with authority residing with a local sheriff, similar to the old Wild West. They would enforce authority through coercion, threats and control of resources.

It’s very likely that religion will play a major role in the rebuilding of society; evidence from previous disasters seems to suggest this. You’ll probably be compelled to attend church, regardless of your beliefs. There may be a resurgence of religious fundamentalism, especially apocalyptic preaching, the preachers will seek to blame either something or someone and encourage just punishment. They will make you feel like the chosen ones, and may use the story of Noah’s Ark as an analogy.

Food will initially have to be rationed, while the town continues to rebuild itself. The sheriff will make decisions on how much food people will get. You can always obtain more food by offering to work in exchange for more food. Some form of radio communication may survive, probably in the form of short wave or amateur, this will prove useful when communicating with other local groups. Undoubtedly in any civilised society, no matter how small, there will be crime. It’s likely that punishments for offences like stealing will revert back to straight forward execution, without any sort of ceremony, probably just dragging the offenders out onto the street and shooting them.

Grow Your Own

Those that survived the pandemic, would have to quickly learn how to grow their own food.
Those that survived the pandemic, would have to quickly learn how to grow their own food. | Source

18 Months Later

Over a year after the pandemic ended and things are beginning to slowly return to normal. Larger towns and cities will be repopulated, but only according to whether they are close to a clean natural water source, other cities, particularly those in arid areas will slowly erode away. People will live the sort of lifestyle that their ancestors from the pre-industrial age led; modern medicine for instance will not exist. You may have a local or family doctor, but overall people will need to be hardier, and be prepared to rely more on home or herbal remedies.

In terms of cooking and preparing food, people may have to learn how to cook up their own home recipes, similar to what their grandparents did. Growing and preserving your own food will become an essential skill, it won’t be simply scattering seeds on the ground, you’ll have to learn about different soil types and when each type of crop ripens to ensure that you have a steady supply of food throughout the year. For preservation, you could try using an old car or van as a solar dehydrator.

In terms of working the land, mechanised machines will be useless, so you will see the return of human power and also the use of draught animals. Very quickly, those people who have some sort of knowledge about plants or the natural world will become highly valuable, more so than academics and stock traders. You’ll need to grow all sorts of plant food, but place particular emphasis on starchy food such as potatoes, carrots, turnips and beetroots.

Eventually communities will need to trade and cooperate with each other; certain items particularly medical supplies and weapons will be of high value. From time to time, your community will be visited by wandering traders who will look to sell goods. This may result in the establishment of a local currency that may vary from community to community

An important thing to consider regarding this new community is mortality rates, without modern medicine they will revert back to levels last seen in the 19th century. This is a world where even a small cut without proper treatment could get infected, become inflamed and possibly result in death. Life expectancies will gradually reduce, resulting in very few people surviving to the age of 80, compared to the majority of us today. You will have to come to terms with the fact that people will die from things that they didn’t die from before.

As well as grown food, meals will consist of food collected from the wild, such as mushrooms. Meat will probably come in the form of poultry initially, but don’t count on getting a lot as it must be shared out. The community will definitely seek a way of producing their own alcohol for social purposes and any for any festivals or celebrations.

In some ways, life would be much harder than before, but that would be counteracted by the simplicity of it all, which wouldn’t necessarily be bad. Indeed, many people even today aspire towards a simpler life. You’ll start to notice other positives, mostly in the form of the natural world, landscapes will become healthier as pollution dissipates, endangered animals and ecosystems will recover. Of course, this account is entirely hypothetical and represents the worst case scenario both in terms of the pandemic and the aftermath, but even the worst case scenario can have a happy ending. But let’s hope that this scenario never comes to pass in the first place.

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    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      There is one other creature that would suffer as well as the humans. That is all the cows that would not be milked. Their agonising "mooing" would echo all over the countryside after about two or three days.

      That was a first class article. Thanks. Let us hope the situation you detail never happens.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks christopher, you're right some dairy cows need to be milked two or three times a day, and they need more food and water than a beef cow. If we were to disappear, then they wouldn't last long. I agree with you, I really hope that this situation never happens.

    • profile image

      Dick Dastardly 5 years ago

      Great information the Jkenny i felt like i was experiencing it, although i think we should all shoot ourselves before it happens.

    • profile image

      Dick Dastardly 5 years ago

      Great information the Jkenny i felt like i was experiencing it, although i think we should all shoot ourselves before it happens.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks for dropping by, Dick. Hopefully this situation will never come to pass, I certainly wouldn't want to experience it.

    • myownlife profile image

      myownlife 4 years ago from london

      so much suggestive and informative, cheers

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you myownlife, glad you liked it.

    • profile image

      jennifer stewart 4 years ago

      i don't own a gun and i live alone i don't have a car and i'm sadly over whelmed with pet's a dog and cat and well everything else i hope this never come's too pass but if it does oh well i'm sunk i'm single and i'm a lone female bye i zed bait for sure

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks for visiting Jennifer.

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