Preparing for Biological Emergencies

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Biological emergencies refer to situations where there is a spread of infective micro-organisms or substances that lead to illnesses. Viruses, bacteria, and poisons cause biological emergencies. These unwanted micro-organisms can be spread into the air, put into drinking water, or used to contaminate food products. It is also possible for viruses and bacteria to spread through direct contact. A biological emergency can occur by accident or on purpose when biological hazards are used in an attempt to make people sick. Protecting yourself from the effects of biological emergency depends on the type of biological hazard. Take note that there are different modes of transmission for each type of micro-organism. For example, smallpox virus can be passed through person-to-person contact; while anthrax is passed through air particles. Either way, in most cases, a person who has been infected or a carrier of the biological hazard may need to be isolated. Furthermore, people who might have been exposed to it may need to be placed on quarantine.

But what does “quarantine” and “isolation” mean?

In cases of biological emergencies, the immediate response is to prevent the spread of the disease. This can be achieved through quarantine and isolation. Some mistakenly interchange the use of these terms. “Quarantine” is when you are kept away from other people because you may have been infected or exposed to a contagious disease, however, you do not necessarily need to be sick. “Isolation” means you are sick and shows symptoms of the disease so you are kept away from other people. Although these terms are most commonly heard in cases of biological emergency, you can also do these precautions on your own, even without instructions from authorities, to help prevent the spread of disease.

What to do BEFORE a biological emergency:

  • Make sure you are prepared with an emergency supply kit.

What to do DURING a biological emergency:

      • Stay tuned to local radio and TV stations for instructions from authorities. Take note of how to identify if a person has been infect.
      • Know where to get medical help if someone has been infected.
      • Follow instructions of officials and doctors.
      • In some cases, there may be vaccinations or medications given to prevent being sick.
      • If you think you have been exposed, voluntarily submit yourself for screening. Some people who have been exposed may need to
        be quarantined.

One simple but very important thing to do is to practice good hygiene and cleanliness to prevent the spread of infectious agents. Although biological emergencies are rarely reported, you have to be prepared for them as they can happen without any warning. Do not wait to get sick before you act.

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