1. Should I keep a stock of antibiotics?
No thank you! If there is a bioterrorism event whose effects can be treated with antibiotics, it is still safer to have them prescribed by a doctor, since they can have side effects, be ineffective if expired, or make your infection worse if used incorrectly.
In sum, don’t hoard antibiotics. It’s difficult for most people to determine if their ailment can actually be treated with antibiotics (viruses cannot), and it’s just not worth the risk, or the scarcity it could create for people who actually need them.
You should not have any antibiotics available for hoarding for one simple reason: Any course of antibiotics that is prescribed to you should be finished! You should never have leftover antibiotics.
2. I shouldn’t hoard antibiotics. Understood. So will the government make them available to me during a bioterrorism attack?
Yes, the federal government has your back. You will see a large-scale distribution of antibiotics in the event of a bioterror attack. The CDC’s National Pharmaceutical Stockpile ensures the availability and rapid distribution of life-saving pharmaceuticals, antidotes, and other medical supplies and equipment to all locations in the US. Rest easy! (And remember that antibiotics don’t treat viruses, and aren’t appropriate for all infections.)
3. Should I buy a gas mask?
If you want to be the coolest/scariest person at your block party, definitely yes. If you want to protect yourself from aerosol agents, maybe. Gas masks are most effective if you are wearing them before and during an attack. Once the biological agent has already spread, wearing a gas mask has a limited effect. So, if you want to be the person who carries a gas mask at all times, go for it.
Gas masks also need to be fitted to the wearer to be effective, so they’re not interchangeable between individuals. If worn incorrectly, gas masks can lead to accidental suffocation. Then you’d REALLY be the scariest person at the block party.
4. Should I have disposable masks in my home emergency kit?
The short answer is yes, but don’t go nuts. In the event of an aerosol attack, covering your nose and mouth is an important part of protecting yourself. Just like gas masks, disposable masks have limited efficacy after the release of biological weapons. Reaching them quickly is the best way to ensure you have them on in time, so consider carrying one in your purse or wallet, like a COVID-19 souvenir.
As for the type of mask you should carry, N95 will give you the best particulate protection, but some preppers do recommend fabric face coverings, depending on the agent. Keep both in your kit to cover your bases.
5. Are vaccinations recommended to protect against a bioterrorist attack?
Not really, but please keep reading. It’s certainly possible that a standard vaccine would protect you if there is a bioterror attack, but it’s more likely that a bioterrorist would employ an agent with no existing vaccine to get the most bang for their buck.
To confirm: Get vaccinated! Vaccinations are recommended to protect against the naturally occurring diseases you’re already exposed to. If you’re not up to date on your vaccinations, make an appointment with either your time traveling or temporally stationary doctor today. Being fully vaccinated may also improve your chances of avoiding secondary infections or other co-morbidities that could be exacerbated by exposure to a bioterror agent.
In the event of a bioterrorist attack, vaccination will be provided by the federal government as needed.
Here’s hoping that Ms. Frizzle stays the heck out of our blood and the mice don’t join the enemy cause. Keep your cheat sheets handy! Stay prepared and stay safe.