The War Against Germs; Autoclaves

One thing is certain, when a world changing event happens, people may become migratory.  They may find the need to travel from place to place looking for food and supplies.  Some of these people, you may wish to add them to your community as valued members because of the skills they possess.  Unfortunately, they will also bring with them their regional germs.  It will be just like when you move to a new city and everyone in the family gets sick for the first month.  It will be like that, except a 100 times worse because there will be so many people, traveling from places far and near.  You can’t help but come in contact with them at some point.

Whether the contact be friendly or foe, one thing is for sure, germs will be transmitted in both directions.  If an outbreak occurs within your community, you will need to be able to sterilize your items because throwing them away just may not be an option, and neither may throwing them in the fire.  One can either boil items, or use an autoclave.  Boiling will kill anything that dies at 200° or below.  However, as in canning, you may need to kill germs that die only at higher temperatures.  In that case, you will need the autoclave.

Medical autoclaves are extremely expensive, and usually have a small capacity.  Larger ones can be prohibitively expensive.  There is another option.

Interesting enough, in Spanish, the word “autoclave” is the word they use for pressure canners.  Pressure canners will reach that magic 250 degrees that kills most nearly every living thing.  Perfect for sterilizing your items.  If you choose to use a pressure canner to sterilize items, you must bear in mind that you will not want to use that canner for food production.  It just ins’t good practice.  But, pressure canners are used all over the world to sterilize surgical equipment and other medical devices that can be sterilized by heat.

It is my opinion that pressure canners used as autoclaves should be the type that requires no rubber seal.  These are much better because it is screwed down and there is no wiggle room as there is with the rubber seals.  You will notice the price of the one pictured is not your average cheap pressure canner, and that it looks like a beast.  It is a beast.  It is also the best one for the job.
 It has a gauge so you know how much pressure is actually in there, as well as the weight to make sure you get the right pressure without going over and having it explode.  Don’t get me wrong, it can still explode if you have the heat too high, just like any other pressure canner.  One must always make certain to follow the manufacturers instructions for proper use and cleaning.  It has six screws to hold it firm and comes in a variety of sizes.  To date, I have never found one for a lower price than on Amazon, the link is in the picture.

I prefer the larger one as autoclave, even though it takes quite a while to heat to temperature, but it also will hold the most items so I don’t have to use it so often.

Remember, when handling contaminated items, to always use appropriate protective gloves and other necessary protective items.  Learn and follow appropriate protocols whenever possible to reduce the spread of outbreaks.
 

 

Using Water Contaminated with Cyanotoxin for Non-Consumable Purposes?

See even a little of this? Don’t use the water.

This article is part of the discussion on cyanotoxin Don’t Drink the Water.

When you find out your water is contaminated with cyanotoxin, your world will change.  This water is dangerous and causes all sorts of troubles, even for showering or bathing.  Unfortunately, you may never know it’s contaminated without the gas chromatography mass spectrometry testing.  Since you can’t keep one in your back pocket, you must prepare and be on the alert.  You must take precautions.

Do not bathe or shower in water contaminated with cyanotoxin.  Someone, who shall remain nameless, told us it is okay to shower with it if you have no cuts or skin breaks on  your body, you are healthy, and you are an adult if the toxin level was very low.  Given the additional information below, that bit didn’t provide any comfort.

If you have to use it for doing dishes, all dishes and utensils must be effectively rinsed with undiluted chlorine bleach.  It’s the only thing that removes (not destroys) it from the dishes.  Even that is not a guarantee of safety.

Not one article has been found that suggests it’s safe to wash your clothing with it.  And, since it concentrates the toxin as water is removed, it seems as if it would only remain in the clothing, and then be on your skin and you can’t get away from it.

Irrigation
Algae can get into the system and contaminate the water with toxins.

And, most disturbingly is that water containing cyanotoxin is unsafe for both livestock and irrigation.  Your animals will die from the exposure, and you wouldn’t want to eat any animals contaminated with cyanotoxin.  When used in irrigation systems, it is airborn and inhaled by field workers.  This causes any number of dreadful outcomes.  Further, studies show that plants irrigated with contaminated water poses a great threat.  The toxin not only gets in the plant, but it concentrates in the plant through the root system so that eating a small portion of the plant would be deadly.

In short the only way to get it off of something is to wash with full strength bleach, and that isn’t a sure thing.  It remains on surfaces.  It is both a poison and a carcinogen.  It is harmful to every living creature that encounters it.

In short, there is no safe way to use water contaminated with cyanotoxin.  When you use it, you know you are taking a risk and one has to determine if the risk is worth it or if there is some alternative water source to be found.

References:

Saqrane, Sana, and Brahim Oudra. “CyanoHAB Occurrence and Water Irrigation Cyanotoxin Contamination: Ecological Impacts and Potential Health Risks.” Toxins. Molecular Diversity Preservation International, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Milligan, Allen J., Assistant Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology, OSU. “Potential Impact of Cyanobacteria on Crop Plants.” Potential Impact of Cyanobacteria on Crop Plants. Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

“Drinking Water and Sanitation.” SpringerReference (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

Don’t Drink the Water – This is NOT a Boil Water Notice!

WaterWhat happens when you can’t test the water, and you suspect it could be contaminated with cyanotoxin/microcystin, even if you get it from a river or well?  Our local city water supply was contaminated with cyanotoxin.  You can’t use any standard water filter to remove it, and boiling just makes it worse.  It’s deadly.  But what is it?  How did the contamination occur?  What to do about it?  How do you know if your water is contaminated?  These questions recently had to be answered in our community.  Someday there might not be a city organization to take care of such issues and you might be using your own private water resources such as a lake, pond, or river.  You will be at risk.

Cyanotoxin is produced by microcystin (a type of bacteria in blue-green algae blooms).  Do NOT confuse microcystin with microcysts (also shown as micro-cysts), a ball of bacteria or virus living in the water.  While the function of microcystin producing cyanotoxin is scary, it is not uncommon.  It is seen anywhere water (fresh, salt, or brackish) may flow slow enough, or be stagnant to allow the blue-green algae to bloom.  Even rivers have “slow” spots where this can happen.  For this reason, it is important to be sure to check if the water is safe before swimming, drinking or cooking with the water.  For public water resources, calling the park service should give you the information about water safety.

Even so, you still have to be certain that these nasty little things didn’t find their way into your family or livestock water supply.  If you use city water supply, you won’t know because the city is not required to test for it.  It is assumed it is not in the city water due to the various processes used for water purification.  Our contamination was discovered when a neighbor suspected something was wrong with the water in her home and sent it out for testing.  The results came back with horrendous results.

The first notice was hand delivered on a Friday night only to our neighborhood.  Then as the rest of the community was tested, eventually the entire city was found to be contaminated.  After two weeks of flushing lines and testing and re-testing the water, they were able to come up with a clean water supply.  The city had no idea how long we had been exposed to this deadly toxin.  Nor does the city know how the contamination happened since it is a closed system.  But, if the indications we saw are correct, it was at least six months, but more like a year.

Here are things you need to know to keep your water supply safe:

Symptoms and consequences of contamination are mistakable for other medical issues.  They include hay fever symptoms while or after swimming or bathing, liver and kidney failure, and death.  If you should survive those things, you have other things looming in your future since cyanotoxin facilitates cancer.  It takes at least one month for even low levels of toxin to be removed from you system, assuming that you have enough liver and kidney function left to remove it.  If the damage to your organs is not too severe, you can recover from it and the organs should heal.

Laws do not protect you if the water is contaminated because monitoring this toxin in the water supply is not currently required by the E.P.A. nor other water regulatory agencies.  However, with several cities’ recent water purification issues from lead, cyanotoxin, chemicals and fecal matter, one can not wait for the law to catch up in time to preserve your health.

There is only one way to remove cyanotoxin from your water supply.  Use a long slow sand filter.  The bad news is, buying these types of systems are usually expensive and they take up a large area.  The output is slow and low water pressure.  It is easier and cheaper to make your own system.  If you are interested, see this article about how to make your own long slow sand filter.  There are precautions  you must take if you are going to make your own filtration system.  See this article about long slow sand filters.

Take precautions with your water supply, especially if you won’t have the might of a city behind you if contamination occurs.  If you are concerned that your current water system won’t be able to remain pure, learn how to make and use a long slow sand filter.  Once you have a system in place and working, have the water that comes through it tested.  Don’t assume that it works.  See this article about using water contaminated with cyanotoxin for non-consumable purposes.

 

 

 

The War Against Germs; Blood Borne Pathogens and Parasites and the Wild Game Food Supply

Blood borne pathogens and parasites can be dangerous to humans.  They can be found in animals for food and animals not for food, the increasing risk of rabies, cat scratch fever, rabbit fever and many other dangerous tiny life forms. Not to mention fleas (that bite for blood) and ticks (the vampires of the insect world), among other insects, that bring their own special set of risks of infection.

Image from page 331 of "Diseases of the dog and their treatment" (1911)When a world changing event (WCE) happens, it is best to have as much knowledge as possible stuffed into all the brains of the people who will be sharing your living space.  The more people know about blood borne pathogens and parasites, the more likely the survival of the group.  This includes a good working knowledge of blood borne pathogens.  We’re not saying you have to be a molecular biologist. But it is important to know which meat and poultry sources are more likely than others to carry diseases and parasites that can cause illness or diseases among your group.  Everything from squirrels to pigeons find their way to the dinner table during hard times.

The most obvious risks when acquiring your meat in the wild are disease and parasite carrying fleas and ticks.  Salmonella, rabies and rickettsialpox are just a few possibilities.  Also consider hantavirus, trichinosis, mosquito-borne encephalitis, and Haverhill fever that range from the mild to the deadly.  They are found in all living wild and domesticated animals and fowl. The wild thing is more likely to have something to make you sick than not.  You can still eat them, but now that you know the risk is great, you can negate the risks by religiously following certain procedures.

  • Do not handle or eat animals that look sick or behave unusual manners.  What ever is killing them might make you sick or kill you.
  • Do not eat animals that are already dead.  You don’t know why they died, nor how long they have been dead.  Pay attention to the “eeww” factor.  You will likely get sick from them.
  • Bury any dead animals you find deep enough to keep other wild animals from digging them up and eating them. Three feet might be enough, but six feet is best. Pay attention to your water supply so that the dead animal is not buried close enough to your river or lake to contaminate it.  Dead animals might contaminate other wild life you plan to add to your food supply.  Do not touch the animal with your body or clothing while doing this.  Use sticks to push the animal around, then burn the stick.  Never open the grave of a dead animal, even if you are just going to add another.  Opening the graves will cause pathogens to become airborne making them easy to breathe in and contaminate your body and your clothing.
  • Wear disposable clothing and gloves when handling, skinning or cleaning wild animals.  If this is not possible, read the article about using an autoclave to sterilize equipment and proper cleaning of clothing items.
  • Properly dispose of carcasses and unusable wild game parts as soon as possible and as far away from your home as possible.   It’s most ideal to burn them, but burial a long distance from the home at a suitable depth is the next best choice.
  • Do not let meats contaminate any item that can’t be washed or sterilized by chemical or heat.
  • Handle carefully and cook wild game thoroughly before eating.
  • You can never use too much soap and hot water cleaning up after handling wild game!

Hunters and trappers who take game to a processor after the hunt should consider processing the meat yourself so that you and the other members of your group are well educated in these processes.  Learning to do them now means you will have access to excellent medical care and pharmaceuticals should you become infected.  If you wait to learn when you need it, after a WCE it might be impossible to get the quality of medical care you need.  The loss of the food from poor handling would unimportant after you die.

Lastly, all states offer a food handling certification course.  They are really cheap or free.  Everyone should take the a course from the most knowledgeable people available.  Make sure you take your list of questions!!  This will go a long way to making sure you understand how to protect your family’s health.

 

The War Against Germs; Foodborne Pathogens

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There are several ways germs can spread through your house.  It becomes more noticeable when family members get sick one by one.  Sometimes the germ is brought in from work, school, or just daily life outside the home.  But once it’s in your house, you have a mission to stop it before everyone else gets sick.  Simple hand washing won’t guarantee success.  You can help stop the spread of germs from one person to the next by checking what happens in your kitchen and stop foodborne pathogens.

Wear gloves when handling the dishes of a sick person.  Keep those dishes separate from other dishes until they have been sanitized.  Do not let the dishes of a sick person sit on the counter or in the sink.  Clean them immediately.  Put them in the dishwasher immediately.  Failing to do these things is one reason care givers get sick when they could have avoided it.

People generally try to follow the safest procedures they can when cooking.  Separate cutting boards and utensils for vegetables and meats, proper hand washing, and changing gloves between tasks are all important parts of meal preparation.  But, what about after the meal has been served, enjoyed, and the dirty dishes are lurking in the kitchen?

That cutting board, cooking utensils, and dirty dishes are in the kitchen producing future foodborne pathogens.  They even create their own protective coating called “slime”.  Ewww!!  The slime makes it difficult to kill germs using chemicals like bleach.  You might kill the creepy crawlies on the top layer of slime, but the bugs on the bottom are happily consuming food particles. reproducing, and making even more slime.  Some pathogens can double their population at alarming rates.

Many people do not have a dishwasher with a sanitation cycle.  If this is the case, you have no time to waste.  Really.  The longer you wait to wash those dirty dishes the more chance your family will get food borne illnesses.  To avoid this issue, many cooks of the past century and still today practice “wash as you cook” methods.  By the time the meal is prepared, nearly all the dirty dishes are washed and put away.  Then all that’s left is the eating utensils and a few stray cooking utensils.

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We use cutting boards that can go in the dishwasher.  Wood, especially bamboo, don’t hold up well over time in the dishwasher.  We only use one side of the cutting board and put the dirty side facing inward so the full effect of the washer can be had.  But mostly we put them in the dishwasher to sterilize them.  Pots and pans go in the dishwasher too, even if I have to run the dishwasher two or three times the same day.

Cast iron cookware should not go in the dishwasher or have soap used on them or their usefulness is wasted.  Instead, I clean them well, by boiling water if necessary, put a fine layer of oil on them and put them in a 350°F oven for a few minutes.  In this manner you are not only sure the pan’s interior is clean, but also the handle.  No more spreading germs from pan to knife to food!

However, as people have become busy with their work-a-day lives, they often leave dishes in the sink, or laying around the house, all week.  Come their day off, they gather them up and wash them.  Others put dishes in to soak overnight.  These practices must stop if you hope to ensure your home is not infested with foodborne pathogens.

When washing dishes by hand, be sure to wear rubber gloves.  They protect your hands from germs, prevent chafing, and help you tolerate higher water temperature.  The higher temperature doesn’t do much for killing germs but it makes it easier to clean the dishes.  Then the dish detergent can get in there and do its job!  When you are finished washing dishes, use a good anti-bacterial bar soap to wash your still gloved hands.  Remove the gloves and hang them to air dry.

Once germs are on kitchen utensils and dishes, they are spread by your hands to everything you touch.  That pan you just washed?  Did you dry it with a dishtowel?  If you have germs on your hands, so to does the towel, and now your clean dishes aren’t so clean any more as you spread germs from dish to dish!  From now on, take the easy way out and let them air dry on a sanitary dish drainer!  Don’t forget to kill germs on counters too!  If you are sensitive to bleach, simply pour boiling water on the surfaces and wipe it up.

Now, for whatever reason you do not have a dishwasher with a sanitation cycle, and the heated dry cycle doesn’t heat to a high enough temperature, or you’re not expecting to have electricity during a WCE, now what?  Foodborne pathogens can be some of the most difficult to get out of your kitchen.  They can also be the easiest!  During past centuries they simply put all the dirty dishes in a big boiling pot.  Ten minutes later they are read for use.  That was how dishes were rinsed after washing with elbow grease and soap.  It doesn’t take long to kill off germs that way.  It is important that the water be over 165°F to be sure bugs are killed.  Some sources tell you 148°F is sufficient, but consider that the U. S. Navy required water supplies on ships to be heated to 165°F.  The extra 2 minutes it takes to go from 148° to 165° is worth it, but why not just boil the water?  You don’t need to worry about using a thermometer to be sure if water is at proper germ killing temperature.

Lastly, consider your dishwasher.  Even though your dishwasher goes through a sanitation cycle to clean the dishes, take a look at the door, inside and out.  See any nasty stuff there?  Yeah, those are germs just waiting to get on your nice clean dishes and your hands.  Clean and sanitize those areas of the dishwasher that will not be cleaned by the dishwasher.  Use bleach if you can tolerate it, if not look for other methods to sanitize it.

Following these methods should be a daily practice and will bring you one step closer to preventing germs from destroying your plan for preparedness.

The War Against Germs; Introduction to Biological Preparedness

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Bacteria, the Cause of TBOne common thread among those who prepare is the concern about biological warfare as a world changing event (WCE).  People most concerned with germ warfare have products and plans in place if such an event should occur.  But, that does nothing to stop any “normal” germs that might enter your home or may already be there.  And, let’s face it, no one should live in a germ free environment unless he has a compromised immune system.  For the normal person, a normal cleanliness regimen and proper housekeeping should be okay for the everyday germs.

Still, no one wants to get a nasty case of the trots or another serious illness because they used a modern product when an antique product would have worked much better in a society where there is no electricity.  Let’s consider the many who plan to revert to the ways of  our ancestors during the years 1850 – 1900.  However, they will continue to do things using modern methods and products.  They will raise and prepare meat and produce at home or trade among their small community of like-minded members.  This is all well and good, wonderful!  Unless they didn’t think ahead and learn the skills they will need to remain free of nasty germs that could put an end to their community before it has a chance to recover from the WCE.

It is important to also note that modern times has brought many micro-organisms that didn’t travel at the same rate in the 1800s, as well as the mutations over time.  Communities were much more closed then they are today.  Even so, how were people in those times able to keep themselves from getting so many nasty illnesses as those which so easily span the globe now?  How were they able to prevent food borne illnesses?  Truly, there are some mirco-organisms that should cause concern.

It is with these thoughts in mind that this series, The War Against Germs, is created.  Each week we will post a new article covering one of the many important topics about pathogens that may already live in our environment.  We hope you find it useful when you consider how you prepare for a WCE.

Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson; This is One Book You Can’t Miss

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When I first saw the title, Stonewalled, by Sharyl Attkisson, I thought this was going to be just another reporter complaining about how difficult life in the world of journalism can be.  After all, it’s tough all over and journalism is no different.  Not only do they have to compete against the traditional broadcast news outlets, but also against cable news networks, and the plethora of blogs and other pseudo-news organisations.

Add to it the amount of risk each journalist takes every time they publish something of real substance and meaning.  Not only has history shown us that being a true investigative journalist, in the most historic sense of the phrase, it is difficult and dangerous.  It be dangerous for journalists who stand up and speak out, it is also dangerous for whistle blowers who know when they speak out their lives will be ruined, and quite possibly they are in danger.

In her book, Stonewalled, Sharyl Attkisson speaks plainly and honestly about what investigative journalism is, what news agencies have come to, and what it’s like to try to get blood from a turnip.  That’s my analogy, not hers.  Except she does get blood from a turnip.  She does it with hard work, perseverance, and great with risk to herself.

It’s been a long time since I’ve believed a corporate journalist was worth any salt.  It’s been even longer since I believed any news outlet was telling the whole truth.  I stopped having any faith in the media long ago.  It began to slip away when I noticed a disclaimer on a cable news channel saying their broadcast was “for entertainment purposes only”.  It was two o’clock in the morning.  From that moment on, I stopped caring what they said.  The news is not for entertainment.

Sure, I understand the reasoning behind the cable channel’s disclaimer.  It’s to prevent them from liability claims.  They are not bound to the same rules as broadcast channels.  The question keeps nagging, why don’t they want to held accountable for their words?

Wouldn’t you want to be known for speaking the truth at all times?  Your reputation depends on your ability to speak the truth at all times. The public wants journalists who are known to have the best interest of the public at the center of their work.  The public is tired of journalists and news outlets who merely say what they are told to say, or are willing to say nothing at all.

That’s the whole purpose behind the freedom of speech amendment.  Without journalists who pour over and publish everything our government does, the protections of the rest of the constitution will be lost.  Journalists represent the light shining in the dark.  Ms. Attkisson speaks about how the government, at every turn, is trying to shut out that light.

Government wants to stop reporters from reporting.  They know citizens can’t travel across the country to investigate for themselves.  That’s way this country has valued investigative journalists from the beginnings of this country.  We can’t let journalists be muzzled.

What can we do?  For starters we can create new ways to ensure Freedom of Information Act requests are filled.  Hold the government to a specific time window to fill requests.  Limit redaction.  Require digital copies of all documents to be uploaded to the public every day where every citizen may freely access them with anonymity.  Require all documents that are declassified or that are eligible for FoIA request to be uploaded to the public servers.  Do not allow the government to charge large fees to obtain information.  Ten cents a page for copies should be sufficient.  Currently, the Department of Justice is responsible for making sure FoIA is carried out.  That’s the fox watching the hen house.  Perhaps we should fine or jail individual people found responsible for failing to fill these requests in a timely manner.   We need to define what a timely manner is and then require that it be followed.  In the end, it still boils down to one thing only:  The honesty and integrity of those people who are holders of information that belongs to the public.

I don’t want to give away too much about Stonewalled.  These are just few ways her book got me to thinking.  I can’t wait to hear how it made you think.

 

 

Building Your Own Shelter

Peter Larson, a Utah survivalist with a home and family, gave CNN a tour of his elaborate $65,000 bunker he built in the mountains in preparation for what he called “the last days.” There are even developers building luxury underground condos inside abandoned missile silos that stretch 175 feet underground, and cost upwards of $2 million per unit.

But you don’t have to break the bank to build an underground shelter that will keep you and the family safe in the event of nuclear holocaust, extinction-level meteorite impact and/or full-fledged police state oppression. All you need is a decent-sized backyard and the will to survive.

The Dig

You want your bunker to be a total secret, or known to exist by as few people as possible. When it hits the fan, and desperate neighbors are trying to escape nuclear radiation or government tyranny, the first place they will come knocking is your bunker. That said, try and be as discreet as possible when digging the hole. You can do it the old-fashioned way by hiring workers to dig with shovels, or have dig parties with friends who are guaranteed a spot in the bunker when it becomes necessary. A small excavator can be rented for as little as $50 per hour. The bunker should be 10 feet deep minimum, but for maximum protection from just about anything, go to at least 20 feet.

The Walls

Nukemap is an app that can simulate what would happen if a 100 megaton nuclear bomb was detonated in a given area. For instance, if one were dropped in New York City, nearly 8 million people would be instantly incinerated, while 4 million more would suffer serious injuries. The residual radiation from the bomb would linger anywhere from a few minutes to several years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Radiation Emergency Medical Management. The King County, Wash., Health Department recommends a concrete shield to protect yourself from gamma rays.

Get quotes from several concrete contractors who will also reinforce the walls with steel. The American Concrete Institute says that steel-reinforced concrete walls have 20 times the compressive strength (weight capacity) of normal concrete. This will not only come in handy if an initial nuclear blast is within a few miles of your bunker, but will serve as a near-impenetrable radiation shield. Make sure to leave small openings for an air filtration system, sewage elimination and even a spout to capture rain water for drinking.

Stockpiling

The last major expense will be for supplies. Batteries, food and water are the items you will want the most. Remember you may not be able to leave the shelter for a year in the event of nuclear holocaust. The bare minimum amount of water humans need to survive is about 68 ounces (two liters) per day, according to Human Rights Watch. This means each person needs about 180 gallons of water to survive for a year. Contrarily, humans can survive for weeks without food. Dried (i.e. jerky) and canned foods are best, as they can be stored at room temperature and will stay edible for years. Firearms, ammunition, flashlights, matches, hygiene and first-aid supplies are the other essentials.

All the aforementioned can be done for less than $10,000, if you exercise due diligence.