PPE for a Pandemic: A Guide to Personal Protective Equipment and Masks

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

One of the problems with prepping for a pandemic is getting accurate information. When there’s a potential for a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease, people panic. Governments do what they can to minimize panic. This includes protective measures, like restricting travel. It can also mean controlling the release of information. We saw this with the West African Ebola outbreak, and we may be seeing it again with the Wuhan coronavirus.

Daisy reported on this earlier in her article, The Numbers for the Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Just Don’t Add Up. The official numbers released from China on confirmed infected and the low number of fatal outcomes compared to government response of locking down entire cities of millions of people under quarantine and health care workers seen in full hazmat gear seems incongruous.

Governments try to manage pandemic panic

Ebola was a top media story in 2014, as it spread from Guinea to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The public tuned in to hear the regular CDC updates from then CDC Director, Tom Frieden.

There was huge public outrage when several health care providers and volunteers from the US became ill and were transported back to the US for medical care. A nurse from Maine was quarantined in New Jersey before being released to Maine. Maine also sought to keep her in quarantine for observation. However, she was ultimately permitted to remain at home during her observation, in spite of the protests from her neighbors.

Then, it happened. The first case of Ebola in the US was confirmed in a traveler from Liberia, Thomas Eric Duncan. Two nurses contracted Ebola while caring for Mr. Duncan. One nurse had even boarded a plane for a vacation before being diagnosed. Tensions rose steeply as President Obama appointed Ron Klain, as his Ebola Response Coordinator. The media dubbed Klain Obama’s “Ebola Czar”.

Klain, a Fannie Mae lobbyist with had no medical background, was known for his unique ability to circumnavigate government bureaucracy and government regulations. Within weeks of Klain’s appointment to Ebola Czar, the Associated Press released a statement that was sent to editors that there would be no more stories on Ebola cases unless it also involved a major upset or delay, as happened with a cruise ship being turned away from port. Ebola was, essentially, out of the news.

Of course, that Ebola outbreak continued for over a year. But, you wouldn’t have known that by watching your regularly scheduled evening news.

Is China downplaying the Wuhan Coronavirus threat?

Downplaying the seriousness of a threat is nothing new. It’s much easier to manage information than to manage a panicked population. Unfortunately, it also puts people at risk. Saudi Arabia is a perfect example of this. When the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) first broke out, Saudi Arabia minimized the risk in its official reports. This led to a spread of MERS that didn’t need to happen.

A lot of questions surround the Wuhan coronavirus. There are the usual questions, such as how fast it is spreading, and how deadly it is. Then, there are other questions. Questions about why are millions of people under quarantine if there isn’t a significant threat? Why are health care workers being photographed moving patients wearing full-on hazmat gear? How legitimate are these photos anyway? Are they even from this outbreak?

We can’t know for sure, and uncertainty is the problem. Speculation is often a pointless exercise at best, and fear-mongering at worst. However, it is fair to have a certain amount of skepticism when it comes to anything to do with the Chinese government. They are already masters at manipulating and controlling their media.

As reported in Daisy’s article mentioned above, there are currently 900 confirmed cases worldwide with 26 fatalities. This is a mortality rate of just 2.88%. This is up by less than 1% from my article 2 days ago, Wuhan Virus Hits the US, What Preppers Need to Know. The overwhelming majority of these fatalities are reported to have been older men with a host of serious pre-existing conditions. Today, there was one fatality in a previously healthy man in his 30s.

Maybe I’m missing something, but if the risk of death from Wuhan coronavirus is still under 3%, that’s just not scary. Sure, it’s highly contagious. But, “highly contagious” does not automatically mean “highly fatal.” However, the response we have seen by the Chinese government, such as putting over 20 million people in quarantine, (now it’s 30 million) seems to be a bit of overkill.

There is, however, some precedence for these measures. China is opting to treat this outbreak as a Grade A infectious disease, as it did with SARS, because it is more effective to prevent its spread.

Currently, however, the new virus will be treated as a Grade A infectious disease, which requires the strictest prevention and control measures, including mandatory quarantine of patients and medical observation for those who have had close contact with patients, according to the commission.

At present, only two infectious diseases — bubonic plague and cholera — are classified as Grade A infectious diseases in China.

Wang Yuedan, an immunology professor at Peking University, said managing the new disease as Grade A will greatly help in its control and prevention. Some other serious infectious diseases, such as SARS, are also classified as Grade B infectious diseases, but have been managed as Grade A infectious diseases during their outbreaks, Wang said.

This is prudent, since we do not yet know if that relatively low mortality rate is accurate, or if it will continue to increase. And if it does, we certainly do not know by how much. The rationale at work here is that it is better to take extreme precautions now, rather than wait for proof that this virus is far more deadly than it appears at the moment.

I would love to believe that the Chinese government has taken these actions simply out of an abundance of caution. At the same time, this is China we’re talking about. A little, healthy skepticism is warranted.

Regardless of whether China is just being proactive, or if China actually is hiding the real risk, there will eventually be another major pandemic. Rather than wait for a deadly disease to visit your neighborhood, you should get prepped for a pandemic in advance.

Personal Protective Equipment

Many of these items are sold out. You can find some currently in-stock substitutes in this article.

One easy thing you can do to prepare for a deadly pandemic is to have a solid supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand. PPE prevents the spread of disease. These are items like facemasks, protective gloves, and so on that act as a barrier between you and pathogens.

The following PPE will allow you to create your own DIY hazmat suit. Please pay attention to sizing. All of these products were in stock and available within two to ten days from Amazon at the time of publication but please be aware that products are selling out extremely quickly right now.

Apron – Disposable Polypropylene

This goes on over everything else. If you just have scrubs, put this over your scrubs. If you have a suit, put this on over your suit. You want multiple layers of protection, and this is an easy-to-dispose option. (Disposal and decontamination options are important to consider.)

Base layer (Scrubs)

This is your base layer. Scrubs are made from durable fabric that stands up to the extra-harsh laundry chemicals used in hospitals. The fabric used is often treated to be antimicrobial.

Boot/Shoe Protectors

Shoe covers can protect shoes and boots from spills, if they are waterproof. Not all are. The boot/shoe protectors linked to above are waterproof.

Duct Tape

Duct tape has so many uses, I’m sure you already have some. You should, however, also keep some duct tape in your medical supplies. Use duct tape to tape down all seams of your chosen suit (example, where wrists meet gloves, where hood meets goggles, etc)

Encapsulated Suit

An encapsulated suit completely covers the body. While it covers the face, it still requires a respirator. It acts as a barrier against air, moisture, and water vapor, and it has taped seams to protect against spills. This was intended for industrial purposes, such as spraying pesticides. It isn’t cheap either. However, it offers more protection than either the Tyvek or Tychem suits.

Goggles

In the absence of a complete face shield, goggles will protect your eyes from being splashed with infected fluids, as well as from disinfectant chemicals. Goggles can fog up, so make sure you get some that resist fogging.

Nitrile Protective Gloves

These nitrile gloves are 9-mil thick and provide greater protection to your hands than cheaper, 4-mil gloves. However, it is better to wear a two-pair thickness. Here’s a guide to using them correctly and safely.

Outer Protective Gloves

These go over your nitrile gloves. These provide another layer of protection but could impede any fine work you might need your fingertips for. Wear these when lifting a contagious person to move to another bed, stripping a bed of soiled linens, etc.

Protective Hood

This hood provides extra protection to the face. It can be worn over or underneath a mask but does not replace a respirator. Wear goggles over this hood and tape all along the seams between the goggles and the hood.

Respirator masks: N95 or P100 and extra P100 filters

N95 filters are disposable masks that will filter out particulates and aerosols. This level of protection was used by doctors working with SARS. Make sure you are using them correctly. Here’s an article about getting a good seal.

The P100 mask is a reusable mask. The P100 filters are an even more secure filter than the N95 filters. Here’s an article on selecting the right respirator masks.

Rubber Boots

Rubber boots will protect your feet and lower legs against standing in or being splashed by contaminated fluids.

Tyvek Suit

Tyvek suits offer more protection than scrubs, but less protection than a Tychem or encapsulated suit. These protect against many irritants and chemicals, and is often worn when doing pest extermination, asbestos removal, etc. They may not provide as much protection as other suits, but they are a cost effective way to add more protection.

Tychem Suit

This type of coverall offers more protection than the Tyvek suit. It is designed to withstand more caustic chemicals than a Tyvek suit. However, like Tyvek suits, it was intended for chemical and industrial applications, not medical. Still, it offers another layer of protection from potentially infected fluids.

For more specific information of PPE and preparing for a pandemic, please check out my book, Prepping for a Pandemic. That link is to the kindle version, as Amazon has been having a near impossible time keeping the paperback version in stock.

Is All That PPE Stuff Necessary?

My current opinion, which is subject to change as newer data becomes available, is that a full DIY hazmat suit is probably overkill for the Wuhan coronavirus. If we get better information and find out that 2019-nCoV has a much higher mortality rate than the current 3%, I’ll be dusting off my PPE supplies.

For now, carrying an N95 mask on you to prevent inhaling the virus if you thought you were at risk should be sufficient. Handwashing, hand sanitizers (if handwashing is not available), and nitrile gloves would also go a long way to reducing the spread of this or any contagious illness.

The idea here is, however, not to prep for just one possible pandemic disease, but for a range of potential pandemics. We don’t know what kinds of new and emerging diseases we might face. PPE, however, provides us with extra physical barriers between us and potentially deadly pathogens, whatever they may be.

And even if this coronavirus ends up not living up to all the media hype, still, by all means, stock up on PPE. It’s not like there’s a shelf life on things like rubber boots, goggles, or scrubs. At some point, even if it isn’t 2019-nCoV, there will be some emerging disease that does become the next great pandemic. When that happens, these supplies will be hard to come by and 10 times the price.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think the Wuhan coronavirus is the next big plague?

About Cat

Cat Ellis is an herbalist,  massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.

PPE for a Pandemic: A Guide to Personal Protective Equipment and Masks
Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis

Cat Ellis is an herbalist,  massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.

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  • I ordered masks and gloves from Amazon – but – it took some digging.

    Watch while availability plummets as the illness spreads.

    Meanwhile, this is insane: – The united states is going to fly people from the heart of the infection zone into the USA. I would NOT want to be on that aircraft.

    U.S. Working to Evacuate American Citizens From Epidemic-Stricken Chinese City (WSJ)

    SHANGHAI—The U.S. government is working to evacuate American citizens by air from the epidemic-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan as soon as possible, according to people familiar with the effort.

    Roughly 1,000 American citizens are thought to be in Wuhan, and the U.S. consulate there is reaching out to those it knows about to offer a seat on the plane, these people familiar with the matter said.

    The plane seats around 230 people, and will include diplomats from the U.S. consulate as well as Americans and their families. Those evacuated will be responsible for the cost.

    The U.S. government won approval to conduct such an operation from China’s Foreign Ministry and other government agencies following negotiations in recent days, one of these people said. Scheduling issues for the charter may scuttle initial plans to fly on Sunday, but the operation is expected to go ahead, this person said.

    The Boeing 767 jet will have U.S. medical personnel aboard to ensure that anyone affected by the newly identified and little-understood coronavirus is cared for and doesn’t spread it, one of these people said.

    In addition to U.S. diplomatic officers based in Wuhan, any available seats may be offered to non-U.S. citizens, including diplomats of other nations, this person said, adding that plans are still being formulated and could change.

    It couldn’t be learned exactly when the flight, to be flown by a private charter company, would take place or where in the U.S. the plane would go.

    • So in other words, if you are wealthy enough to “cover the cost” of the ticket, you can get out.
      Seems to me that the US government should pay for evacuating US citizens stranded in a foreign country during a crisis, but that’s just me, apparently.
      I wonder if you can still get on the plane if you are showing symptoms, if you pay them enough?

  • It’s interesting that the price of the paperback book, “Prepping for a Pandemic”, has gone up (on Amazon) at least twice over the past two days. The price has almost doubled in 2 days. Is it out of print?

    • Probably not as its usually called GREED. They apparently are taking advantage of the “virus news” and know that the majority of people are on edge so they want more $$$$$ therefore they up the price while they can. And of course the worse it gets the more pennies they will up it for sure. This is serious yes, but I am NOT yet in a panic mode. I am being cautious/careful, my eyes are open and I am being aware if it is in the state I live in or what is going on around me. I had bought a box of gloves and the n-95 mask back in 2005 and that was 15 years ago. I never used them b/c there was no need to do so but this time I may need to make use of them. Covering eyes, hands and face (nose/mouth) is a start. IF it boils down to wearing a “suit” that isn’t gonna happen so I will be staying home as in hunkering down until this is over That is where our prepping comes in handy. Plenty of water and food and propane to hear and cook and I’ll be okay hopefully…Of course sooner or later I will have to go out but hopefully by that time the scare will be over and it would have by then run it’s course (for this virus)…Stay safe and stay alert, awake, aware of what’s happening, get what you need NOW b/c if you procrastinate no matter what you buy you will pay MORE (remember that word GREED!!!)…Ahhhhh, it’s gonna get ya everytime!

    • It’s currently not available from the publishing company. I wrote to them and they said they’re awaiting another print run. The paperbacks you’re seeing are all from secondhand sellers.

    • Update: I saw the paperback is available (at least right now) through Books-A-Million but Barnes & Nobel was out of stock. Thanks for the replies.

  • I live just outside the city of Brisbane in Australia. Time and time again we have seen the active flouting of our laws by some members of the migrant population. Many will disregard the suggestions that will help protect the community. I do worry but am so glad I am no longing nursing.

    As far as I am concerned I will be encouraging good personal hygiene as this will go a long way towards keeping us well. For the next few weeks I will be staying close to home as the next suburb across from me is bigger than our Chinatown.

  • Hi Daisy,
    There are a few bits and pieces coming together to help clear the mystery on 2019nCoV.
    1) the virus is named in 2019, not 2020 which means the Chinese have been investigating since at least December before the epidemic started making major news. (I ‘m guessing November)
    2) If you have the virus for 30 days and a Bio-level 4 lab in your back yard (Which Wuhan has) you can dissect the virus and know exactly how what it is and how if attacks cells (I guarantee the Chinese have done this because the CDC, NIH, and NAMRU have already done this in January 2020 – Hint – it attacks the cells at the same receptor sites as SARS.)
    3) Like the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, cases confirmed do not represent number of cases, or even total number of sick people. If all those sick people being seen in hospitals do not have 2019 nCoV, then what do they have?
    4) Virulence vs Lethality. A highly contagious pathogen does not have to kill in it’s own right. It can simply overwhelm a healthcare system to the point that patients with life threatening illness are blocked from receiving the care that they need and they die.
    5) If this turns out to be SARS 2.0, we will know in February when all those people exposed on flights across the globe become ill (and then cause human to human transmission in countries outside China.)
    6) I hope this is just a new, nasty cold that makes people miserable for 7 days and then goes away. Sadly, we just don’t have enough information to know for sure at this point.

    This PPE article is good to have on hand, but here is what you should be doing starting today.
    1) Do not tough public door handles with you unprotected hand. wear gloves, use a handkerchief, or an elbow. Remember, there is still a ton of Influenza circulating – 7000 have dies from it!
    2) Even if you do not always wear an N95 mask, have one in your bag, pursue or vehicle.
    3) Alcohol based hand gel, once applied is almost like a liquid glove. It adds barrier protection.
    4) If people come to work sick, tell then to go home and tell their supervisor!

    This bug is just getting started and it is going to be a trouble maker, but we can prepare now to keep ourselves safe as the wave washes over us.

  • Who is going to wrap yourself in all this equipment? Are you going to put it on and sit in your house, or are you going to wear it walking down the street or driving? Of course not.

    You want protection? I am going to give it to you. Buy a colloidal silver generator now, and learn to use it. I have used the one from elixa.com for years and I just ordered a second one. Take daily to prevent catching the virus. Colloidal silver had antiviral and antibacterial properties. If you do come down with the virus take one shot glass per hour until fever and coughing subsides.

    Next, buy clean air teapills from amazon.com. This Chinese formula will remove the phlegm from your lungs and keep you from drowning with pneumonia.

    Buy anti-viral masks if you can find them. If not, take any mask and mist it with colloidal silver and allow too dry.

    Avoid any and all crowds. Stock up on food. Do not touch your face, mouth, nose, or eyes in public.

    Wash those hands at every opportunity.

    Thing are much worse in China than being reported. The Government is in full blown panic, and 56 million people are quarantined. That is equal to the population of America’s 10 largest cities. Just think about that for a moment.

    I am a licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine, licensed for over 30 years, and studied in China in the mid 80s.

    We will know in the next 2 weeks if this will blow over or become the pandemic we have feared for many years.

    • TCM is awesome! Such a different thought process than the allopathic thought here in the States.
      Don’t suppose you are anywhere near Missouri?

      Colloidal silver is also awesome. Heed this man’s advice and get a generator so you can make your own. Way to exspensive to have to buy small bottles all the time plus you can be sure of what you are getting with your own!

      • Hi Dawn.

        I am in Marina Del Rey, CA……… long way from Missouri.

        Back in the day, I practiced in Little Rock.

        Yes, definitely a colloidal silver generator is the way to go. Makes product for pennies. I have 2 silver generators.

        Take care of yourself, and good luck.

    • I have looked up colloidal silver generators. Any recommendations? This looked good: Compact EZ-2 Colloidal Silver Generator Package by LifeForce Devices
      by LifeForce Devices 4.6 out of 5 stars

      Can you use bottled distilled water to make it, or must it be “sterile” and distilled?

      Price:
      $79.95 + $14.90 shipping

      • Amy: I am unfamiliar with this particular generator. The two I own are made by exlixa.com.

        You must use distilled water. However, the generator from elixa.com has an override function that will allow the use of tap water in an emergency.

        If you buy a generator, and I highly recommend you purchase one from someone, make sure you have several gallons of distilled water stored.

        Here is the protocol I use with colloidal silver: Two shot glasses per day for prevention. At the first sign of infection I suggest you take take one shot glass per hour until symptoms abate.

  • I just read on Breitbart that the Chinese have closed off their capital city. How do you keep 60 million people under control IN A COUNTRY OF 1 BILLION? There is just no way.

    The Wu Flu is bad, the SHTF next week? STAY TUNED BOYS N GIRLS !

    • Yes, China has suspended road transportation in and out of Beijing. Not a complete quarantine but close. China has already quarantined 56 million people. This is not an ordinary flu, and it is much worse than being reported. There are videos of people dropping on the streets, and dead bodies covered in sheets on hospital floors. Today the city of Wuhan looks like a ghost town. This is no ordinary flu. There is a level 4 bioweapons lab in Wuhan. Evidently the virus was allowed to escape due to a lapse in protocol. Once the masses in the West catch on to what is happening, the panic sets in. The movie “Contagion” starring Matt Damon has an eerie similarity to what is unfolding now.

  • Although this is likely not going to be a ‘Black Death’ civilization ending plague, but depending upon the severity of the symptoms of enduring the illness itself and how virultent it is, it can cause a lot of social distress and economic depression if too many can’t get to work to keep things running. But the real plague (the same pneumonic Black plague that wiped out a significant part of the world in during the Dark Ages — which I wrote about in an article for Survivopedia.com a couple years back had already begun as of that writing and as i predicted, A year ago it jumped the natural ‘containment’ of its original origin on Madagascar, AND, it brought along its blood brother, Ebola as a death bonus! and when that goes ‘pandemic’ then the true ‘END’ is not near, it’s Here!
    In the article I also relate the problem with these nit wit countries experimenting with extremely dangerous biological germs and diseases they have no justification for doing. Daisy’s content editor should be able to link the article from this website or go to Survivopedia to find it under Mahatma Mujesbude. It’ll open your eyes.

  • As someone who was a state certified Hazardous Materials Specialist, here is the best advice in the article, IMO – “For now, carrying an N95 mask on you to prevent inhaling the virus if you thought you were at risk should be sufficient. Hand washing, hand sanitizers (if hand washing is not available), and nitrile gloves would also go a long way to reducing the spread of this or any contagious illness.” Why? Three reasons. 1. Unless you work in a hazardous environment where contamination is likely, or where this level of protection is required, most of these PPE recommendations are simply overkill, especially for the layman, i.e. average person. 2. Donning PPE, (for some even a face mask) is mentally stressful. The more PPE and it is also physically stressful. As a trained responder, whenever I donned the required level of PPE my respiration increased, my heart rate increased, and my blood pressure increased. Can’t be helped. On the untrained or physically unfit it will be worse. 3. If the situation is of such a personal hazard that you require protective covering garments, once you leave a contaminated (hot zone) area, you must be decontaminated in order to prevent spreading any contamination (in this case an infectious virus) into uncontaminated areas. One person can’t safely decontaminate themselves. It requires additional help.
    Before going to Amazon (or any other vendor) for protective suits, think about these issues I have raised.

  • Stuff was literally selling out on Lowe’s and Amazon as I was shopping. If you’ve got five minutes to run to your local pharmacy or hardware store for masks, you might want to.

    I try to avoid the hype of this stuff but I’m a little worried this one might bite me in the butt.

  • I got all the pandemic supplies before the ebola scare when prices were normal. I did order a reusable N99 mask for those in my immediate family. I also ordered some individually wrapped hand sanitizers to keep in the car. I suspect this will not be a full out pandemic but limited to certain areas. But, I’m still wearing a mask and gloves when I have to go into the city for shopping trips and I’ll be wiping down cans and burning boxes because a lot of that stuff came from China or was handled by people without sanitation or protective measures. Too many recalled items in this day and age. Don’t care what other people think, taking basic precautions are worth it.

  • A question. The equipment listed in the article would seem to be more for health care workers or those caring for contagious patients at home. What should an individual who is not directly involved with patients be wearing to avoid contamination in a public place such as the bus, subway, pharmacy, doctor’s office, etc.?
    Would a fabric facemask and using hand sanitizer be sufficient, do you think?

  • Yes, P100s are great, but you don’t want to reuse filters, as they will be contaminated, and you certainly do not want to bring them into your home after being contaminated. That could run into a lot of money just buying extra filters. This is why disposable one time use N95 masks are good.
    And if the outbreak got so bad that you would need all that gear, why would you even be going out??

    • Disposable N 95 masks can be reused, with precautions.

      “Don’t bring filters into house after contamination.”

      What about your clothes, are you going to undress in the hallway and put the clothes and shoes in a bag for incineration?

      A little common sense goes a long way.

  • A lot of the above PPE is meant for hospital Isolation Rooms for non-contact patients. But they would be good to have in a SHTF situation or during an epidemic. Diseases roughly travel from personal contact (touching), liquid droplets (sneezing), to air droplets (fine mist) affecting the respiratory tract so it’s necessary to match the PPE with what type of disease you may come in contact with and how. Avoid latex that causes hypoallergenic reactions (rubber sensitivities). Nitrile, a non-latex synthetic, has better puncture protection.

    Hand sanitizers are expedient but washing with soap and water is better especially when contacting blood. It would be good to know how long the disease can survive out in the open.

    In addition to stocking up on, say N-95 masks, soap (no fragrance), vinegar, and baking soda for personal hygiene and cleaning surfaces. Gargle with a mild salt solution and a nasal spray daily. UV light and electrostatic disinfectants might help.

    Rodent protection is a factor. Let’s not forget the Norwegian Black rat that carried lice and fleas. Also, any other vectors that transmit diseases.

    But who’s to say the Chinese govt. really isn’t looking for ETs?

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