Monday, August 16, 2010

Oregon Trail series #1 You Have Died of Dysentery

Alternate title: 3rd World Living Conditions: Water Filtration, Sanitation and OTC Meds
 Yesterday Wifey and I drove a long way. We don't listen to the radio and instead talk to each other while driving. What a novel concept. Anyway we passed a car with a trailer and a single horse somehow we got to talking about how it would be cool to have draft animals and a wagon and go camping Oregon Trail style. I said we would need an extra kid because one of them would die of dysentery. It is sort of a funny joke and I have been meaning to order the T shirt.

We both got a good laugh. Wifey then said we would also need lots of oxen to replace the ones that would die and 3 times the amount of food we actually need because it always seems to fall out of the wagon and get washed downstream at fording sites. After a second of silence I thought of something. People still die of dysentery. Almost never in America or western Europe or pretty much any other country that doesn't suck but by the thousands in Africa, less developed parts of Asia and South America. I would wager it will get some folks in Pakistan and China because of the recent flooding.

Dysentery is caused by poor hygiene. Basically you ingest some nasty stuff. In any case you catch it and start shitting your guts out. You then dehydrate massively and keep shitting and eventually you die. Dysentery spreads like wildfire because people are in close quarters and it is an environment with poor sanitation and hygiene. If 12 people are living in a little shack/ hut with poor sanitation and hygiene and one gets massive diarrhea it is going to spread.

Part of the reason that dysentery is so sad is that it is so avoidable. A bit of common sense sanitation and decent hygiene are enough to prevent dysentery all together. Prevention is as simple as regularly washing your hands, especially after going #2 and before cooking/ eating. Treatment is super simple. Re hydration and good cleanliness are usually enough. For worse cases a course of antibiotics are necessary. Simply keeping some pedialite or gatoraide around as well as soap, etc and having a plan to deal with waste is sufficient.

Our life patterns have changed dramatically in the last 100 years or so. In particular population densities in urban areas have increased and this whole suburb thing popped up. These work because almost limitless clean water is piped in and waste is piped out. However it doesn't take much to at least temporarily break those systems. Especially in densely populated areas such as the Gulf Coast all it will take is a hurricane to bring back a primitive standard of living in a hurry. If you exclude medical personnel and those with primitive outdoor experience via rugged camping or the military knowledge of primitive sanitation is woefully lacking. You can't take care of everybody but should certainly have a plan to take care of your own.


Anonymous said...

Nuun tablets are awesome for rehydration. They are quick to dissolve, very tasty, and effective. They can be found at most camping/outdoor shops.

Sam....still in the trailer park that has yet to be hit by a tornado

Commander_Zero said...

You did see this, right?

"I'll take four oxen, and all the bullets sixteen hundred dollars will get me!"

Someone You Know said...


You don't need to store pedialite, gatoraide or other premixed drinks. A oral rehydration solution can be made from salt, sugar, and potable (clean) water

The first link is to a home-made solution from the Rehydration Project.

The second link is to a specialized spoon for making a single-serving of solution.

Joseph said...

For those who do like Gatorade it can be purchased at the link below cheaply. Although they do have a 2.5 gallon packets we pay a little more and order the 1 gallon powder packets because Fruit Punch is my poison and pay approx $1.85/gallon (which includes shipping), just add water.

Disclosure: Not affiliated with the company above in any way, just trying to help out others.

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