Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve been reading about the rapid growth of the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
Just this week, Barack Obama has dispatched 3,000 American troops in a humanitarian mission to Africa to help treat Ebola victims. The health care system in the affected areas of Africa is marginal at best in the big cities. In rural areas? You may as well be back in the late 1800s. To make matters worse, this virus has burned through a significant portion of trained medical providers, making limited medical care even scarcer.
Sierra Leone announced a three-day weekend where all six million of its residents are to remain in their residences this Friday – Sunday while authorities search for any additional Ebola victims.
And earlier this week, a healthcare statistics guru (with a masters in medical informatics) ran the latest numbers on this outbreak and projected the spread of the diseased based upon the current daily transmission rate. The Cliff’s Notes version: by the end of October, there will be 28,000 cases, and nearly half of those patients will have succumbed. If the current transmission rates hold, we’ll have 10,000 new cases each day around New Year’s Day and about half that many deaths – each day.
In the most recent week, Africa saw almost 700 new cases. Hundreds, if not thousands more are probably unreported.
In short, this bug is spreading like a fire through dry grass.
We wrote about it a few weeks ago, urging our members and friends to begin planning and taking steps for when (not if) this thing made it to America.
That recommendation remains true today!
Here’s my take on the issue:
–There’s a large chunk of people here that seem to dismiss ebola as a “don’t screw monkeys or eat bats” kind of disease. That downplays the danger and communicability of the virus, in my opinion.
—We are being told that “It’s not airborne.” Well, that’s true. Much in the same way that norovirus isn’t “airborne.” So how well does norovirus move through a cruise ship? Like wildfire, despite sanitation stations at every meal point. “Airborne” is an interesting characterization with viruses. They don’t actually float around through the air like pollen, so that’s true. But if someone sneezes or coughs, microdroplets will end up in the air. Ever sneeze in your hand? What does it look like? Try coughing in front of a mirror; what do you see? Humans are filthy animals, so who knows what the dude in front of you on the escalator just wiped on the handrail. Is it instantly dead once it touches another surface? Or can it last a few minutes or hours on that handrail? Touch the rail and scratch your eye, or wipe your nose. Did that transfer a virus into your bloodstream? It doesn’t take an open wound, when mucous membranes work just fine for viral transmission.
—“You’re not contagious until you’re showing symptoms.” We’ve all heard that one. Well, what is “showing symptoms”? Is it running a fever? Coughing? Feeling like you’ve got the flu? Or is it only bleeding out of your eyes and ass? Take a look at Patrick Sawyer, the Nigerian diplomat. He was “showing symptoms” and decided he wanted to go home. How many people did he infect? 12 at least, with 5 dead now. Do you think the people on the street will go to a hospital if they feel down, have a fever, and perhaps have the flu? Or will they tough it out, go to work, get groceries, and go home.
—“American medicine is different and we can contain any outbreak.” Certainly the first few can be quarantined. Even the first 10 or 50. How many hospital beds are there in each city with negative pressure for suspected ebola patients? What happens when there’s more than can be contained?
—The tipping point – American hospitals can quarantine and trace X number of suspected cases. After that, what happens? When a nurse gets sick, are her coworkers going to keep showing up each day?
—Panic is the real enemy – Right now, the media is avoiding the issue on the whole. They’ll update the official body count from Africa and say who has tested negative for the virus in America. Did you hear about the white guy in Ireland that just died after returning from West Africa and is a suspected ebola case? Or was all the news coverage about the doctor and nurse being released from Emory after being cured? When the issue really hits, and the soccer moms start talking about it, there’s going to be another tipping point. Much like the bread and milk disappears from store shelves before a hurricane, there’s going to be a major run on food and supplies. These things happen suddenly, and the fear snowballs out of control. One day you can get soup, rice, and beer. The next, it’s empty shelves because of just-in-time inventory practices.
— Those that dismiss this as a third world disease that won’t hit our shores are doing their families a disservice. Hell, we’ve got people here that won’t mow the lawn without a concealed handgun. Yet, the idea that a virus could scare people into clearing store shelves empty for weeks is “fearmongering.” If you don’t have a couple of weeks of beans, rice, and water in your house, start thinking about it. It can’t hurt, and it just might help your family.
The author is right: Proper planning prevents panic (and poor performance).
As we wrote earlier:
If (or when) it starts popping up in cities in the coming weeks and months, it will then be time to began making more substantial preparations for it to hit closer to home.
What can you do at that time?
Make a plan, do some research and begin preparations.
Your plan should involve communication with family members and agreement on a course of action, learning more about how to protect you and your loved ones from infection, and preparations to include securing personal protective equipment like protective medical gloves, hand sanitizer and possibly N-95 masks.
If the spread of Ebola begins to get really bad, there may be some forced quarantines of areas with infections. They are considering them in the country of Liberia.
If that eventuality becomes possible in your region or city, securing food and water for a period of four weeks would be the proactive thing to do.
You can take other actions now, to begin to lay the groundwork for future action should Ebola begin to spread inside America.
Some things to keep in mind:
Ebola’s incubation period runs 7-21 days, and the infected individual may not feel symptoms initially. Communicability will be highest once symptoms have manifested themselves in the patient. Theoretically, everyone in a household could be infected before patient zero in the home begins to show late-stage symptoms.
It’s not communicable like the flu, however tiny droplets from sneezes or coughs will infect you if you inhale them or get them in or on your mucous membranes. Ditto for bodily fluids left behind on common surfaces (think shopping cart handles, hand-rails, faucet handles).
The best way to avoid infection should this thing get loose in America?
Minimize exposure to people and public places outside your home. Ideally, you would stay indoors or on your property until the epidemic burns itself out. This may take weeks – or even a few months.
99.99% of folks aren’t going to be able to stay quarantined / isolated in their homes for three months for a host of reasons – be they food, financial, or just cabin fever. If you are forced to go out into public, you should probably wear protective goggles, a mask and gloves. Ideally you’ll wear some sort of protective over-garment as well that can be shed when returning home as part of a decontamination routine.
Obviously, don’t be handling or messing with people who are sick or dead.
And just like with the flu: practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, take a bath/shower regularly and don’t be touching your mouth/nose/face without washing your hands first.
Get yourself some bleach for disinfection – either liquid household bleach, or crystalline sodium hypochlorite (pool shock). Get latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves and N95 or N100 masks and goggles or protective glasses.
The single most important thing you can do is to sit down with your family and sketch out a plan of action for the day when Ebola comes to your hometown.