Outside's guide to surviving everything

Dead Rat

Dead Rat     Photo: Charles Haynes/Flickr

Survival Myth

Survey Says: Vaccines contain a dangerous chemical.

Science Says: The substance in question, squalene, is an oil produced by the human body that can trigger disorders such as Lou Gherig's disease. But squalene isn't used in any U.S. vaccines, and studies in Europe, where the substance is in use, show no adverse effects. Get your shots.

The Forecast: Not since 1918, when the Spanish flu killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, has an airborne or contact scourge effectively culled the human race. But in the past decade, SARS, monkeypox, and avian flu have all forced epidemiologists to work overtime. Last year, experts reported that the H1N1 “swine flu,” a certified pandemic, killed 14,000 people. The U.S. government’s regional stockpiles of antibiotics and vaccines for various strains of flu now account for H1N1.

Stats: 40,000—droplets per sneeze, which can stay suspended in the air for hours. 36,000­­—average number of U.S. deaths each year from the flu.

Worst-case scenario: A flu pandemic without a vaccine. If one strikes, be vigilant about hygiene: keep clean and avoid coughers.

Smart Play: While survivalists stock up on Cipro and Tamiflu, Thomas Kirsch, an M.D. at Johns Hopkins and a member of the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, suggests simple alcohol-based hand sanitizer. “In a true pandemic, I’d wash my hands 100 times a day,” says Kirsch.

More Likely Scenario: Dysentery
What: A form of diarrhea mixed with blood and mucus caused by either an amoeba or a bacterial infection. Although it’s rare in the developed world, the literally gut-wrenching ­infection hits about 120 million people per year and is a common ailment among international travelers.

Strategy: Oral rehydration salts (we like Adventure Medical Kits’ version, $9; are the first course of action after infection, but if the bug doesn’t pass, get to a clinic for a saline drip and antibiotics.

From Outside Magazine, Aug 2011 Get the Latest Issue

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web