Pandemics: Introduction and major concerns


Updated 3/19/20 to reflect the latest pandemic status per the World Health Organization

This is a primer for our Instagram followers who are new to the topic.

What is a pandemic?

The World Health Organization defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) is a respiratory disease that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has been detected in many locations around the globe.1

How severe is COVID-19?

There are still a lot of unknowns about COVID-19, as public health officials continue to learn more about the disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, even resulting in death. Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) reports that more than 80% of the cases have been mild. The sick and elderly are most at risk.2

Several thousand deaths have officially been attributed to the disease. Accounts surfacing from the hardest-hit areas paint a much darker picture. Use a variety of information sources to decide for yourself how severe the disease really is.

Please read:

Symptoms and Precautions

What are the symptoms?

According to the World Health Organization, common signs of infection include:

  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.3

What precautions can I take?

The World Health Organization’s standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand-rub
  • Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between you and anyone who is coughing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well4

And, of course, it’s important to stay as healthy as possible. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise, take your prescribed medications, and reduce stress levels.

What about face masks?

For people who are well, the CDC is not recommending wearing face masks at this time.5 If you are looking into buying them, educate yourself as to the effectiveness and proper use for each one.

Is there a vaccine available?

At this time, there is not. Vaccines generally take two to five years to develop. But researchers and labs around the world are working to drastically shorten that time-frame.

What are some additional sources of information?

Preparedness Concerns

The Centers for Disease Control stated in February 2020 that Americans needed to be ready for disruptions as public health officials take measures to combat the disease. The cancellation of mass gatherings, local school closures, or employees being asked to work from home are a very real possibility if the COVID-19 virus continues to spread.

What are quarantines?

City-wide quarantines are one strategy public health officials are using to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This tactic has been used in China and Italy. And while no one is really sure when or where the next outbreak will occur, your city could be next. Prepare now.

What is panic buying?

Panic buying occurs when people over-buy or hoard excessive amounts of supplies in anticipation of a disaster. Shops in northern Italy recently experienced this, as store shelves quickly emptied.6 Prices for basic goods can often escalate as demand outpaces supply.

What should I stock up on?

COVID-19 has not made much of an impact on North America—yet. That’s why now is the time to stock up on food, health and cleaning supplies and other critical items. When panic buying sets in, there is no guarantee that the supplies you need will be available.

Take inventory of your own personal needs. Stock up. Examples:


Quarantines can last for a month or longer. Have at least that much food on hand, and assume that it may take days or even weeks for stores to resupply.

  • Canned foods
  • Camping staples, freeze-dried foods or MREs
  • Beans, nuts, rice and other foods with long shelf life
  • Sports/hydration drinks
  • Snack and comfort foods to help relieve stress

Health Care

Pharmacies are always packed before an expected national disaster. Take inventory and stock up on:

  • Cold/flu relief
  • Pain relief
  • Digestive aids
  • Vitamins or dietary supplements
  • Prescription medicines–ask your doctor or pharmacy about getting refills early (or converting 30-day prescriptions into 90-day)
  • Thermometer
  • Virus masks

Cleaning Supplies

Keeping your home as clean and germ-free as possible is critical during a pandemic. Make sure you have enough:

  • Antibacterial cleaners (many kill viruses as well)
  • Disinfectants
  • Garbage bags
  • Mops
  • Paper towels

Personal Items

  • Shampoos
  • Soaps
  • Toilet paper
  • Facial tissue
  • Personal needs

Basic Emergency Gear

If the power goes out or something else happens under quarantine, stores may not be open—or you may not be allowed to leave to get supplies.

  • Flashlights
  • Lanterns
  • Batteries
  • Grill
  • Fuel

Also, be sure to stock up on plastic sheets and duct tape. They’re perfect for fixing a broken window or sectioning off a sick area in your home.

First Aid Supplies

During a quarantine, hospitals will prioritize patients with the worst symptoms. Having a good first-aid kit stocked with bandages, gauze, medical tape, tweezers and more may prevent a trip to the emergency room or doctor. Read the list of first-aid kit supplies recommended by the American Red Cross.

Ways to Stay Entertained

Cabin fever sets in quickly. Make sure you have a way to relax and keep the kids occupied— especially if the power or Internet goes out.

  • Books and magazines
  • Board games
  • Puzzles
  • Playing cards/dominoes
  • Crayons and coloring books
  • Drawing and hobby supplies

Don’t Forget the Pets

  • Pet food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Grooming supplies
  • Medicines

How much water should I plan for?

Individual water needs will vary, based on a person’s age, physical health, diet and activity level, as well as the climate of the affected area. The CDC offers these guidelines for planning an emergency water supply:7

  • Each person (and each pet) will require at least 1 gallon of drinking water per day
  • Pregnant and nursing women, people who are ill will require additional water
  • People in hot environments may need double the recommended amount
  • Water for food preparation and hygiene is about one gallon, per person, per day

Should I stock up on bottled water?

If you have run out of a supply of bottled water you may run into obstacles:

  • If you are quarantined you may be unable to travel to a store
  • If stores are sold out then you cannot purchase additional water

Have a final barrier system in place

Berkey® systems equipped with Black Berkey® Purification Elements reduce up to 99.999% of viruses and 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria, while also removing or dramatically reducing protozoa, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, perfluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, sediment and even radiologicals.

Don’t take a chance on not being able to find water at the last minute. Take control of your water now. Berkey® systems can easily purify ordinary tap water and well water, yet are powerful enough to efficiently purify raw, untreated water from sources such as remote lakes and streams.

For further reading

We have talked about many contaminants and concerns:


  1. CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
  2. BBC: Coronavirus: Largest study suggests elderly and sick are most at risk
  3. WHO: Coronavirus
  4. WHO: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)
  5. CDC: Prevention & Treatment
  6. CNN: Italy warns people not to panic-buy as coronavirus cases rise in north
  7. CDC: Creating & Storing an Emergency Water Supply
2020-05-13T13:27:24-05:00March 2nd, 2020|Education|