Pandemic Preparedness

"Oh, God. Now I'm reliving it." GIF
Ye gods who control the humors and elements, please do not send us another pandemic.

If you thought your pandemic days were behind you, you might be living in a fairytale. As of late 2022, the jury is still out on whether COVID-19 has moved from pandemic to endemic status, and the possibility of another pandemic is always on the horizon. As recently as September 2022, major cities in China such as Chengdu were under total lockdown.

According to an official count by the World Health Organization (WHO), 630 million cases of SARS-CoV-2 were confirmed. Evidence suggests that many people were asymptomatic carriers or had the illness without testing, so the actual rate of infection is difficult to pin down. WHO reports almost 7 million deaths directly caused by COVID-19 worldwide, but these numbers are disputed as well, with many believing they are much higher due to deaths from co-morbidities exacerbated by the illness. In layman’s terms, it’s been a real shitshow.

Isolation, social distancing, better hygiene, masking, and vaccines have saved many lives since early 2020, and we’re well on the way to endemic status. That’s great news for everyone who’s sick of COVID-19, but what about the next major pandemic? 

Odds are good that we’ll be seeing another one before too long.

cloth masks
Hope you held onto those cute masks. You might need them again.

What Exactly Is a Pandemic?

Sure, you lived it, but do you know all the boring stuff? The “pan” part of pandemic means “all,” so it’s a broadly contagious disease outbreak affecting all or almost all places on earth, i.e. multiple continents.

But what about the 2002-2004 outbreak of SARS-CoV-1 (aka SARS) across 29 countries that resulted in 8,000 infections and 770 deaths? That was not a pandemic. It was an epidemic! Same goes for the periodic Ebola outbreaks in Africa.

So how do they decide? WHO is in charge of declaring pandemic probability in six stages, and epidemic falls just short of full blown pandemic status:

StageEstimated Probability of PandemicDescription
1UncertainNo new outbreaks among animals
2UncertainNew outbreaks in animals, but not humans
3UncertainHumans have been infected by animals but no human-to-human transmission has happened
4Medium to highHuman-to-human infection has been recorded, but is restricted to a small region
5High to certainHuman-to-human transmission has grown, but has not spread worldwide (this stage is commonly called an epidemic)
6Pandemic in progressHuman-to-human transmission is common globally (for example, H1N1 Swine Flu of 2009, COVID-19, and HIV/AIDS)

Epidemics can be as stressful as pandemics for the people affected; it all depends on the severity of the illness being spread. Consider this your guide to epidemic preparedness as well!

  1. How to prepare for a pandemic
  2. Pandemic science for nerds 
  3. How to survive a pandemic
  4. Post-pandemic
Sad, upset person
Next time you’ll know how to avoid that crippling depression, too!

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.