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A pandemic is an outbreak of global dimensions. It happens when infection due to a virus becomes capable of spreading widely and rapidly.
The disease behind a pandemic can cause severe illness and spread quickly from one person to the next.
Contrary to certain perceptions, COVID-19 is not the first time humans have confronted a pandemic disease. We have confronted pandemics from plagues to SARS and influenza, from smallpox and measles to cholera and HIV.
What is a pandemic?
According to the WHO, a pandemic is described as the “worldwide spread of a new disease” or over a vast area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting many people.
When a new disease first emerges, most people lack natural immunity to fight it. This can cause an unexpected, sometimes fast, spread of the disease between people, across communities, and around the world. Without natural immunity to fight off an illness, many people can become sick as it spreads.
Pandemics aren’t necessarily determined by their growth rate but rather by the spread of the disease. Nevertheless, knowing the growth rate of a pandemic can help health officials prepare for an outbreak.
How is a pandemic different from an epidemic?
The primary way pandemics differ from epidemics is through the magnitude of their reach. They cover more expansive geographical areas, often the entire world, and affect considerably more people than an epidemic.
Similarly, pandemics tend to cause more deaths than epidemics. All in all, this usually forms significant social disruption, economic loss, and hardship.
One of the decisive factors that turn an outbreak into a pandemic is how contagious it is. Pandemics are usually caused by new viruses or new strains of viruses, which are unfamiliar to most immune systems because they haven’t circulated before. This differs from epidemics, which can happen yearly, and enables them to spread quickly between people.
An epidemic is a spread of a disease in a community or region over a particular amount of time. Epidemics can differ based on the place of the disease and how much of the population has been exposed.
A pandemic is a type of epidemic that has spread to at least three countries within the WHO region.
How to survive a pandemic?
Surviving amid a pandemic may be more challenging than it seems. Be it mental health, financial issues, good hygiene, or just about anything.
There are certain do’s and don’ts that could help everyone during this pandemic.
The do’s of surviving a pandemic
- Keep your hands clean and disinfected.
Regular hand washes are one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash hands correctly before doing anything. Practice it as a habit. Only use hand sanitizer that contains more than 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Practice physical distancing
Physical distancing indicates having a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your home. When out in public, it is crucial to stay at least 6 feet away from other people to slow disease spread.
- Wash your vegetables and fruits
Always clean fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking. Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water, even if you do not plan to eat the peel. Germs on the skin peels can get inside fruits and vegetables when you cut them—cut away any damaged or spoilt areas before preparation or before eating.
- Cook your food properly
Cook all food well. This will help kill dangerous microorganisms, making the food safer for consumption. If you plan to eat something directly out of the refrigerator, make sure to reheat it, so it is steaming hot. Bring foods to a boil to ensure that they reach 70C, a temperature above which foods will be safer for consumption.
- Keep surfaces in the house clean.
Wear disposable gloves during regular cleaning and disinfection. Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use disinfectant. If someone is sick, have a separate bedroom and bathroom for the person.
- Keep a 14-day supply of food.
As you make your purchases, be mindful. Even in areas where travel is restricted, people are still allowed to go out for essentials. Buying only what is necessary at the moment will help make sure there’s enough for everyone.
- Stock up on sick day essentials
If you get sick, you’ll need to stay home except for when you go out seeking medical care. Stock up in advance on anything you think you may need while ill. If you take a prescription of any kind, try to get a refill now to have extra on hand.
- Pick up kid and baby supplies.
If you have kids at home, you’ll want to make sure you have any kid- or baby-specific supplies on hand. If you usually use diapers, wipes, or formula, make sure you have a 2-week supply.
- Help the elderly in society.
Buy them daily essentials. Ensure their medical supplies are stocked up. Cook for them and place it outside their door. Most of all, inform them that if they develop a fever with cough, or shortness of breath, to call their family doctor, or nearest hospital.
- Exercise regularly
Physical activity releases endorphins and compounds in your brain that re-energize your mind and body. It can help to enhance all aspects of health. Besides boosting your mood and improving sleep, exercise can also strengthen the immune system, vital amid a pandemic.
- Stay calm and practice meditation.
During a pandemic, there is so much doubt concerning the future. It is natural and normal to feel anxious, fearful, and frustrated. Meditation can help us recognize these circumstances without allowing us to be led with powerful emotions. It can, in turn, bring us back to a centered calm.
- Educate your children
Try to set a routine with age-appropriate educational programs that can be followed online, on the television, or through the radio. Also, include playtime and time for reading. Use daily activities as learning chances for your children.
- Plan your finances
With great uncertainty about what’s next for many businesses, ensuring you can meet necessary expenses should be your top financial priority right now. Reevaluate your budget to discover new ways to save cash.
- Keep a sleep routine.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Keep a strict work schedule, so you’re not tempted to take a long midday nap, and you can turn off your computer at the end of a regular workday.
The Don’ts of surviving a pandemic
- Don’t panic
Most of the time, panic leads to people making wrong and ill-informed decisions. If you follow basic personal hygiene and the other precautions, it is less likely for you to catch the disease. It is crucial to keep up to date with reliable information. A pandemic doesn’t describe the deadliness of an illness but how widespread it is.
- Do not touch your face.
Don’t touch your face, nose, and mouth too often. This helps reduce the chances of catching any virus because the virus from your hands does not reach the nose or mouth from where it can contaminate the body. Keeping your hands clean will also help decrease the risks of the infection spreading any further.
- Do not travel unless necessary.
The airports and airplanes are where you are most likely to catch an infection. It is advisable not to travel unless necessary. If you are traveling, you should take the required precautions and get yourself screened on landing. You must inform the airport and airline staff if you begin to feel sick while traveling.
- Do not go to crowded places.
Public transport, gyms, and any other congested areas should be avoided. The higher the number of people, the higher the spread of the virus. Suppose you have symptoms, self-quarantine yourself. Staying apart and not coming into contact with many people is the only way to contain the spread of the disease.
- Do not believe everything on the internet.
Please do not believe anything unless it comes from a reliable source. Circulating false information and guarantees about the cure for a disease has added to the panic and kept a large percentage of the population deceived. Do not fall into the trap yourself or propagate any information that is not from a trustworthy source.
- Do not seek alternative treatments.
If you feel you have caught the virus, do not seek any treatments other than the ones advised by your doctor. If you are infected, seek consultation from a reliable medical practitioner on the treatments available.
- Do not shake hands
Hands are warm, wet, and can often transmit disease very well. To avoid contracting any disease, it is best to avoid handshakes. Instead, nod your head or show a ‘Namaste’ as a sign of greeting.
- Don’t go to an ER unless you’re seriously ill.
If you have virus-like symptoms, it’s best to call your healthcare provider for advice. Don’t go to an ER unless the symptoms are serious. This is to avoid infecting others.
Tips to boost the immune system during a pandemic
During the pandemic, it’s more crucial than ever to include positive lifestyle practices that can help you stay healthy and boost your immune system, the body’s intricate system that fights infection and disease.
While there isn’t a magic pill to improve immune function, a healthy lifestyle as a whole is your best defense.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is when the entire system of the body is revitalized. Scientists are still exploring all the ways sleep improves our health, but the REM (rapid-eye movement) cycle of sleep is significant.
For instance, people with sleep apnea — a disorder in which a person wakes right before entering the REM cycle of sleep — have higher rates of mood disorders, memory problems, heart disease, and possibly cancer. People should have six to eight hours of sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, reduces the activity of the immune system. Stress can also affect sleep. When we’re anxious and turning things over in our minds and can’t stop thinking about them, our sleep will be negatively affected. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to make bad choices, like eating unhealthy foods, which can have a chain reaction on our overall health.
During a pandemic, when there is so much happening outside of our control, it’s very important to concentrate on the aspects of our immunity and flexibility that we can control.
Aerobic exercise has been associated with a more effective immune system. It also reduces stress and relieves depression. People who are aerobically fit tend to get sick less often than those who don’t exercise regularly.
Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, controls body weight, and protects against various diseases. Picking up some form of aerobic fitness is an excellent step to improving immune health.
One of the keys to a robust immune system is eating right. The gut and the immune system are inevitably and symbiotically connected. When things are right in the gut, everything is excellent with the immune system. So, it should come as no surprise that consuming healthy foods leads to a healthy microbiome, which leads to a healthy immune system that can help fight off disease faster.
When a new disease arises, there is the possibility of a pandemic, which is the worldwide spread of the disease. There have been multiple pandemic outbreaks in recent history, including the 1918 influenza pandemic, the 2003 SARS-CoV outbreak, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
We can all do something to prepare for a possible pandemic outbreak, and we all must follow the proper measures to slow or stop the spread of the new disease.