Update: Sierra Leone has declared a public health emergency and is quarantining towns where outbreaks of Ebola are occurring. The President, Ernest Bai Koroma has asked the military to enforce the measure. This is exactly what I am talking about further down in the article. The thing is that the military in Sierra Leone are unlikely to have hazmat suits and without those suits anything that brings them into contact with the locals is a potential death sentence. Once blood starts to be spilled this disease is going to spread faster than before…
Patrick Sawyer, a married father of three was making his way back to the United States after attending his sisters funeral in Liberia. He was due to attend a conference in Lagos, Nigeria before flying home to Minnesota. His trip required three flights, he made two of them before falling ill. The first from Monrovia to Lome in Togo, and the second from Lome to Lagos . During the flight he became ill. On landing he collapsed in the airport.
The passengers on the two flights he completed were given details about the signs and symptoms of Ebola…and were then allowed to continue their onward travel. As Ebola can take up to 21 days before people start to show symptoms there are grave fears that the virus has now escaped Africa and will start spreading around the globe.
Dr Derek Gatherer of the University of Lancaster an expert in infectious diseases said yesterday:
“Anyone on the same plane could have become infected because Ebola is easy to catch,” he said.
“It can be passed on through vomiting, diarrhoea or even from simply saliva or sweat – as well as being sexually transmitted. That is why there is such alarm over Mr Sawyer because he became ill on the flight so anyone else sharing the plane could have been infected by his vomit or other bodily fluids.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) director of operations Bart Janssens echoed his concerns:
“This epidemic is unprecedented, absolutely out of control and the situation can only get worse, because it is still spreading, above all in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in some very important hotspots,” he said.
“We are extremely worried by the turn of events, particularly in these two countries where there is a lack of visibility on the epidemic. If the situation does not improve fairly quickly, there is a real risk of new countries being affected. That is certainly not ruled out, but it is difficult to predict, because we have never known such an epidemic.’
Europe is on high alert after it emerged that Germany has agreed to take Ebola patients at a hospital in Hamburg. The World Health Organization has requested help from the west in dealing with the outbreak.
Doctors assure that the utmost precautions will be taken to make sure the disease does not spread during treatment. The patients will be kept in an isolation ward behind several airlocks, and doctors and nurses will wear body suits with their own oxygen supplies that will be burned every three hours.
German authorities were expecting the arrival of Sheik Umar Khan, an Ebola expert who caught the disease while treating patients in Sierra Leone, but he died before he could be transported.
“We were actually anticipating the patient’s arrival over the weekend,” Dr. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, head of the viral diagnostic unit at Hamburg’s Bernhard-Nocht-Institute, told German public broadcaster NDR.
Are they insane? Transferring these patients from general to isolation wards is hazardous enough, transferring them internationally is just insanity of the first order. While politicians around the world insist they have sound plans afoot for screening and dealing with an outbreak workers on the ground are nowhere near as sure. Lucy Moreton, leader of the UK Immigration Service Union said:
“Members are very concerned. They serve on the front line; they are the first point of contact usually for people coming off an aircraft and the concern is what do they do if they’re confronted with someone that doesn’t appear well who appears at the border.
“There is no health facility at the border, there is no containment facility, and until extremely recently there has been no guidance issued to staff at all as to what they should do,” she said on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight.
“They are phoning us up and asking ‘what are we supposed to do, how do we spot this, how do we protect ourselves?’, and we can’t answer that for them just now.”
Neither the World health organization or individual governments have yet recommended a travel ban to the affected areas. Unless international travel in and out of these countries is stopped eventually Ebola is going to get out, and then God help us all.
Of all the diseases it’s possible to get the two that scare health workers, (and retired health workers) the most is Ebola Zaire and smallpox.
There is only one surefire way of NOT getting Ebola, and that is to put yourself into self-imposed quarantine should it arrive in your area. A wildfire cannot spread without fuel, well Ebola can’t spread without hosts to spread into.
I really hope I am wrong, but I have a very bad feeling about this. I have no doubt that whole towns will be quarantined should Ebola arrive on our shores. Military rule is likely to be one of the consequences of such an outbreak. Curfews and public meetings will be banned.
You MUST be ready for this. Waiting until it’s here will be too late. Have a plan and stick to it. Go into self-imposed isolation before you are forced to, that way you are in a controlled situation which goes a long way to removing the panic that enforced orders cause.
- If you really have to leave your home make sure ALL of your skin is covered. Just brushing against a sweating person who has Ebola can pass the virus to you, if it can get in through a cut, scratch, graze or via mucous membranes.
- Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses to prevent entry via the eyes.
- Facemasks should be worn when out in public if an outbreak is declared. There is a right and a wrong way to use paper facemasks. Pinch over the nose and face the person you are talking to. Turning your head to one side allows pathogens to enter via the gaping edge of the mask. Wear fitted filter masks if you can afford them.
- Any clothing worn outside of your boundary should be removed in a prepared area before entering the house. Paper coveralls should be burnt in a controlled space such as an incinerator, regular clothing should be put into a bucket of bleach water if they show no sign of contamination, or should be burnt is they have any unknown marks on them that were not there before.
- Never enter the house with your shoes on after going outside your perimeter.
- Shower or wash immediately on your return, outside the house if possible. If showering keep you eyes and mouth closed until you have thoroughly washed your hair and face.If adequate water for showering is not available concentrate on your hands and then your face. Wash your hands thoroughly in a mild bleach solution and using fresh water wash your face and neck.
- Keep your skin in good condition as dry chaffed skin is more prone to infection of all kinds and far more likely to have a breach in it than supple skin.
- If you have ANY skin condition such as dermatitis,eczema or psoriasis cover all defects before leaving home.
- Any fresh food, including meat and fish, brought after an outbreak is declared should be soaked in a mild bleach wash and then rinsed in clear water before use.
- Do not handle meat and fish with your bare hands as any human blood from a nick on the butchers finger will be indistinguishable from the animals blood.
- Peel all vegetables before use.
- Cook all food thoroughly. You might like your steak rare, but it’s not advisable during an outbreak, it needs to be cooked right through in case the butcher was infected.
- Avoid doctors waiting rooms and hospitals unless you have a life or limb-threatening condition.
You need to take a long hard look at your preps. Do you have enough staples to last a few months at least? Many of the basics are dirt cheap, pasta, rice, dried potato flakes and lentils for example. In any emergency situation these staples will form the basis of hundreds of different meals, allowing you to add small amounts of protein to create balanced meals for you family over an extended period.
Make sure you have enough over the counter medications to deal with minor issues as they occur, and have as much prescribed medication as you can in your home.
If Ebola does spread around the globe we will be witnessing a plague of biblical proportions. Ebola Zaire has a fatality rate of up to 90%, potentially able to wipe out 6,300,000,000 of the worlds population in a matter of months. The last time the population of the planet was 700 million people was around 1750, 275 years ago.
None of us can afford to think Ebola is something that only affects far away lands. Maybe once, but not anymore. International air travel, something most of us do without a second thought, something that has expanded our knowledge of the world as a whole, something that has played a major part in economic growth for decades, may be the very thing that brings society to an almost grinding halt.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.