I was reading this article titled The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine from the New England Journal of Medicine the other day–don’t worry, I rarely read such nerdy medical stuff–and viewed the interactive graph when it became happily apparent that a once leading cause of death (100 years ago) has seemingly vanished in today’s society, that disease being Tuberculosis (TB).
If you’re unaware, tuberculosis “…is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air. Most infections are asymptomatic and latent, but about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.”
Sadly, the disease hasn’t completely disappeared since there are still millions of estimated cases each year, most of which occur in developing countries. A bit more research indicates that TB is still around here in the U.S. with thousands of cases reported each year but, overall, it’s been on a decline year after year.
The problem for me is that it’s precisely these types of infectious, relatively deadly, declining diseases that could make a devastating comeback in our society and seriously threaten your life! Why? Because, as you likely know, diseases are becoming more drug-resistant and TB is no exception. Dr. Alton of DoomAndBloom.net explains:
“There are now reports of some strains of the TB bacteria popping up in India that do not respond to any of the known antibiotic therapies. These cases are being diagnosed in diverse regions of the country; as such, there is concern about further spread. This new strain (known as Totally Drug Resistant or TDR Tuberculosis – how’s that for a scary name?) seems to affect the poor and malnourished most. With overcrowding and nutritional deficiencies rampant in the country, physicians in India are concerned about a possible epidemic. If TDR TB makes it out of the impoverished classes in India, it won’t be long before Indian businessmen or tourists take it to the rest of the world. Imagine, a mobile disease with absolutely no treatment.”
Now, imagine if something like TDR Tuberculosis spread here (which is certainly possible, maybe even unavoidable) AND we’re in a long term grid-down or economic collapse situation (both probable in our future)? Now, we’re in a situation where:
- medical help may not be available (doctors or hospitals are not functioning or not regularly)
- the antibiotics either won’t be affordable (too costly due to hyper-inflation) or just won’t exist (nobody has invented them yet!)
- people are even less healthy than they are now (due to malnutrition) giving rise to higher infection rates
- TB spreads because people fail to take appropriate steps for sanitation, hygiene, prevention (e.g., face masks or avoidance)
- TB spreads even easier that that because people are simply in such close proximity to each other in major cities
What can you do about it? Besides good face masks (N-95 at minimum but N-100 are probably more appropriate), gloves, protocols to treat potential TB cases (including family members), and a general avoidance/seclusion strategy, there’s probably not much else you can do. Stockpiling the currently approved antibiotics treatments in the required amounts (you need several months of treatment at minimum for a single person) might be all but impossible for non-medical people like me. And, besides, this just seems to put the disease into remission.
Beyond that, Dr. Alton poses a few questions for you to consider:
“Where would you put a possibly contagious individual in your home or retreat? What protection against the spread of disease have you provided to the other members of your family/survival community? What would you do with a chronically ill member of your family when highly specialized drugs are no longer available?”
These are tough questions to consider. Ultimately, I’m not saying such an outbreak WILL happen. I have no idea but I would suggest that it certainly can happen. And it’s precisely situations where times are tough and help isn’t readily available when nasty infections and deadly diseases like Tuberculoses raise their ugly head. Best to be prepared!