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  • Writer's pictureWilliam W. Forgey, MD

Infectious Disease intro

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

While there are many reasons to leave the grid, there are also multiple issues that might cause the grid to collapse right out from under you. While we usually think of issues like economic collapse, conventional or nuclear war, massive natural disasters from weather or violent nature, a less considered potential is bioterrorism or natural biological catastrophe. Further, if you are moving into unfamiliar territory in your departure from your normal habitat, you may be moving into an area with unusual environmental stress and very likely exposure to new endemic (locally available) infectious diseases. Initially you will probably not have immunity to these pathogens, and you must be prepared to pre vent and/or treat yourself for these dangers. Please study this section carefully during your planning phase so you can enter your new home base fully prepared to diagnose and treat, or better yet, prevent, what may well be more dangerous than an attack by armed marauders. Of all of the natural challenges, the environmental stress issues will be the most dangerous, and they are covered in chapter 10. That is not to say that bites, stings, and injuries are not potentially lethal, but these issues are usually very apparent to the survivalist, much more so than the plethora of tiny pathogens that can also prove debilitating or lethal. Diagnosing an illness can sometimes be made by noting the time of symptom onset after being exposed to the illness in question. This is most feasible when you first move into a completely foreign environment and an illness suddenly appears within your group. Otherwise, after being in an area for more than several months, or when dealing with indigenous people in that area, you are going to rely on knowing what diseases are the most prevalent and evaluate symptoms to work out a probability of what you are treating. Sir William Osler, one of the greatest teachers of medicine, gave a lecture at the Harvard Medical School in which he stated that of the three basic principles of medicine, the most important was diagnosis. After the lecture he was asked, “What are the other two principles?” he answered, “The first is diagnosis, the second is diagnosis, and the third is diagnosis.” Putting this into perspective, let us say that it is pitch black out and a fierce, deadly enemy of unknown number is approaching our perimeter. We would probably resort eventually to spreading a vast quantity of powerful ammunition in his general direction. The more powerful our ammunition, the greater the chance of our neutralizing this enemy. We have ammunition when it comes to fighting infectious diseases. We have antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics, and medications to treat symptoms, all of which can be lifesaving. But the ammunition we use is a two-edged sword: It will not work on the wrong target, side effects can be more dangerous than some illnesses we are treating, and we will always have a limited supply. Correctly identifying the diagnosis is as critical as correctly identifying that target.

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