We can say that the birth of modern medical science happened a few hundred years ago. The actual date it started isn’t important to us for this discussion, but rather how it started. Before that time, many diseases were thought to be caused by demons; but that changed when a few brave doctors who decided to break with tradition and look into the matter. Their discoveries changed medicine, especially what they discovered about poop.
There are really only a few ways that disease spreads. One sick person can infect another by contact with bodily fluids, it can travel through the air in droplets from a sneeze or cough, a rodent or insect who is a carrier of the disease can bite the victim or it can be transmitted by poop.
Yes, poop is a major carrier of disease. So, how we deal with our poop has much more to do with our health and survival than it does with avoiding unpleasant odors or accidentally stepping in someone’s poop on the street. While it is nice to not have to dodge the contents of chamber pots that have been thrown out on the street, it’s much nicer to not have to worry about the sickness that such poop can carry.
In a survival situation, proper care and disposal of poop is essential. In fact, if there is a major outbreak of plague that happens after a disaster, you can rest assured that poop has something to do with it.
The Fecal-Oral Route
Let me explain; diseases are caused by microscopic pathogens. We often call them by the simple name “germs.” Those are bacteria, protozoa or viruses that get into the body. It’s not hard to get infected by these pathogens, as they are all around us. The average school desk has 400 times as many germs living on its surface than the average toilet seat.
Those germs all have one thing in common, they want to get into a body. You see, they need to eat, and to do that, they need to be inside a body that they can eat from. Yes, these microorganisms are parasites and they think we exist just to feed them.
Unfortunately, when they eat, they reproduce… and they keep on reproducing as long as they can. As long as this is under control, it’s just an infection. The body’s immune system attacks the germs and kills them off. But if the immune system can’t do that, then the germs multiply to the point where they make us sick. That’s called a disease.
In the midst of this process, some of those germs end up leaving the body that they have infected. It’s not really by their choice, but when we poop, some of the ones in our intestines are injected along with the poop. So, what we have is contaminated poop. Anyone who comes into contact with that poop can become infected as well, spreading the disease.
Actually, few people come in contact with poop directly. But let’s say that the poop just lays on the ground and decomposes, like dog poop tends to do when it is left on the grass in the park. Then, the pathogens in the poop just hang out, waiting for another body to come along. Many soak into the ground along with rainwater. Since they like water, they stay with it, traveling to wherever that water goes. Ultimately, if not filtered out by the soil’s natural filtration process, it can end up in the water supply.
This is why water has to be treated before it can be drunk. These pathogens have to be killed, before they make a lot of people sick or even worse, kill them.
Stopping Poop in its Tracks
Okay, so now we know one of the ways that disease can travel from one person to another. As I mentioned in the title of that section, that’s called the fecal-oral route. No, fecal-oral doesn’t mean that people eat poop, it just means that the poop is how the pathogens get out of one body, so that they can get to another.
How do we stop this? Proper purification of water is great. But it’s better to stop it before it gets to that point. In fact, it’s better to just keep the pathogens in that poop from going anywhere. That’s why proper waste disposal is so important.
In a crisis situation, where the city water is out, it may not be possible to use the toilet. Those who have a septic system and have enough water to flush their toilets will be able to still use their toilets, but everyone else is going to be out of luck. Since you can’t hold it for months and it’s not a good idea to just poop in the backyard like the dogs, another option is needed.
The Home-made Porta-Potty
One fairly easy solution is to make your own version of a porta-potty. You don’t need the little house, as you already have a bathroom. All you need is something to use as the toilet, other than the toilet in your house that you can’t use.
This is easily accomplished by mounting a toilet seat onto a five gallon bucket. There are actual toilet seats made for this purpose, but they are rather small and uncomfortable. You’re actually better off buying a regular toilet seat and cutting a wood block to allow you to mount it to your bucket.
Place several layers of plastic bags in the bucket, opening them up one inside the other. That way, if you have a leak, you still have a bag to catch it. Add lime to the contents to help absorb the liquid, odors and keep pests away. When a bag is full enough (you can decide what that means on your own), pull it out, tie it up and set it aside.
The one problem with this system is that you’ll have to save all those bags until the city water and sewer system is up and running again. But once it is, you can take them all to the city’s water treatment facility and give them as a gift to some nice city worker.
The Traditional Outhouse
Of course, people have had to deal with getting rid of their poop for much longer than there were water purification plants. For much of our country’s history, the way that was done was a little building back behind the house, called an outhouse.
The outhouse is nothing more than a hole in the ground, covered up by that little building. The seat has a hole in it, so that whatever donations you decide to give can go down in the hole in the ground. Once the hole is fairly full, it is closed off with dirt and another hole is dug. Of course, the deeper that hole is, the longer it will take to fill up.
The prime factor in putting up an outhouse is deciding where to put it. You don’t want it too close to the house, so you don’t have to smell it. You also don’t want it close to any water sources. This is of upmost importance. Remember, the pathogens in that poop can and will contaminate any groundwater, if it is too close. Keep it at least 100 feet from any water sources and even farther if it is uphill of them.
Adding lye to the hole in the ground does the same thing for the outhouse as it does for your five gallon porta-potty. So, if you can put in a stock of lye, you’re outhouse will be a much more pleasant place to visit.