Zombies: they are everywhere you look nowadays. You may think that, for nurses, zombies and all they represent are works of fiction.
However, most zombie plagues in movies, television, and books portray the spreading of the undead as an easily transmissible infection. Whether through bite, air, or blood, zombies are the ultimate pandemic horror story.
As nurse, we are the on the front lines when it comes to pandemics.
We are the most at risk if influenza becomes airborne, if Ebola breaks out, or if a bird or swine flu makes the jump to humans.
Will nurses ever see zombies?
No, but you can learn from the idea of a zombie apocalypse to help protect yourself, your facility, and your family from a pandemic that is really scarier than any zombie ever could be.
Mode of Transmission
Transmission in zombie movies usually occurs from a bite wound as the creature seeks to feed on the flesh of the living.
In some fiction, though, infection seems to be airborne, meaning you’ll turn into a “walker” even if you die from some other reason.
This is an important point of consideration when looking at real pandemics.
Although it isn’t common for nurses to be bitten by patients – though certainly not unheard of! – we are often exposed to blood and blood products.
Blood borne epidemics are nothing new. AIDS and hepatitis are both examples of pathogens that travel this way, and that’s why we employ universal precautions.
The problem will arise when infectious diseases become airborne. Tuberculosis and some forms of avian and swine flus can be transmitted this way, but luckily, they have not broken out of the small areas of influence to impact the world.
Handling the Infected
Of course, knowing how the zombie plague is transmitted helps you to understand how to treat them. Shooting, knifing, or bludgeoning them in the head may help you to save your life in a zombie encounter.
Similarly, you need to take measures to protect yourself against pandemics and those who may become infected by them.
Universal precautions can block against most pathogens, but airborne and droplet transmitted diseases require more protection.
In addition to wearing gloves, eye protection, and gowns, a pandemic situation may call for various types of masks.
Simple masks may be enough to stop the transmission of some diseases, but respirators will be called for with virulent and highly contagious conditions.
Your facility should have measures in place to react to large-scale pandemics. For this reason, knowing how to use the masks and respiratory equipment can keep you safe in the event of a wildly contagious epidemic.
Vaccines and Medicines
In the world of zombies, there are no vaccines or medications to take. Once you are infected, you turn, and you never get well again.
Fortunately, most of the known contagious conditions do have vaccines and medications available for them.
Although all nurses should get their yearly flu shot, it will not help in cases of new strains of the disease.
Medications are also available for some infectious diseases, such as antibiotics.
However, some diseases such as Ebola do not have any known cure and may as well be a zombie plague for all the help medicine can give it.
As a nurse, you will be called upon to receive the newest vaccines against epidemics to ensure that you can safely care for your patients. Antibiotics may be in short supply, but most conditions tend to respond well to these measures.
If a pandemic starts, nurses will be needed for their medical expertise and patient management.
Unlike the zombie apocalypse, measures are in place to keep medical staff and further patients safe from a spreading microbe.