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WINNING THE GERM WAR

Pick your favorite (or least favorite) disaster scenario and ask what your top priorities following that disaster will be. Are a clean body and living space on your list? They should be.

Sanitation and hygiene are fundamental forms of preventative medicine to block disease transmission. Human waste and household garbage harbor numerous infectious diseases. Properly disposing of these items and maintaining clean bodies are staples of the modern running-water world. With a flush of the toilet, taking a can to the curb, the turn of a knob, a little soap, and a few seconds, most of our sanitation and hygiene is handled effortlessly — so much so that very few of us ever consider life without these conveniences.

History shows that in disasters, one of the first things to become compromised is the infrastructure we rely on for hygiene and sanitation. The power goes out, and pumps shut down. Water lines are broken or compromised. Essential personnel to maintain infrastructure services fall ill or are unable to reach their workplaces. No matter the scenario, one of the greatest disaster challenges is maintaining clean and healthy living conditions. Meeting needs for clean water, sanitary waste disposal, and individual hygiene tops the list of priorities for every disaster response organization. Many tasks come later, or simultaneously, but without these fundamentals, the spread of disease runs unchecked.

Sanitation means keeping environments clean and healthy. Hygiene means keeping the body clean and healthy. Disease risk from unsanitary conditions and poor hygiene can be extreme, as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens not only thrive in dirty environments but can be spread more easily.

Of primary concern is the transmission of diseases via the fecal-oral route, where pathogens in human waste pass from one person to another and are ingested. Diseases and pathogens that can be found in human solid waste include cholera, shigella, e. coli, hepatitis, giardia, cryptosporidium, tapeworms, amoebas, and even the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Fecal-oral transmission occurs most

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