This article first appeared at Prepared For That
It seems you cannot avoid reading about the recent shuttling of two ebola-stricken Americans back to the United States for treatment. The reactions have ranged from “eh, the CDC can handle it” to “How stupid is this? What if they start an epidemic here?!” As preppers, it is in our best interest to know what is a truly dangerous threat and what is concerning but generally under control. So, what about this Ebola epidemic?
Firstly, is Ebola a big deal personally?
Generally speaking most people know very little about Ebola aside from the fact that it comes from Africa, it kills many people, and there is no cure. All of these things are true, and a large part of the reason why every outbreak of Ebola is of extreme interest to the CDC and other organizations.
To summarize the effects of Ebola on the average patient:
- Initial symptoms resemble the flu, with headache, muscle soreness, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. being very common.
- As Ebola progresses, about 50% of the people affected will show red bumps on the skin.
- Upon arriving at the “bleeding stage” that has made Ebola infamous, blood loss occurs in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the disease, with greater bleeding indicating a more severe viral infection. Generally, outward bleeding is rather limited, though the genitals, mouth, eyes, nose, and gums are all potential bleeding points. Vomiting and pooping blood is more common as the gastrointestinal tract bleeds within.
- Owing to impaired clotting, any injury that can cause blood loss will be much more severe in loss since the wound will take much longer to scab over.
- This blood loss can kill or merely weaken, leaving the body vulnerable to other infections particularly in areas of the world where sterile rooms and antibiotics are rare.
In short, yes it is a very big deal to become infected with Ebola. Even a mild case requires strict monitoring since internal bleeding can have damaging effects within the body.
Should they have brought Ebola infected patients to the US? Positives and negatives
I wouldn’t wish the symptoms listed above on my worst enemy, so it is understandable that many were sharply critical of the decision to bring a disease that historically has no foothold here across the ocean to our shores. However, before we dive into the potential negative effects of this let’s look at what may happen on the positive side to ensure we’re looking at this correctly.
The potential benefits
Firstly, the two patients will be carefully cared for to ensure that they survive without infecting other caregivers or civilians. Here in the States, they’ll have access to sterile rooms, quarantine measures, and a general quality of care that simply could not be shipped across the ocean particularly for just two people. In particular, access to the vast blood banks in this nation, in addition to the ability to use scopes to determine the severity of internal bleeding and pro-clotting medications could mean the difference between life and death!
Secondly, the CDC will now have access to people who have no genetic association with the virus (native Africans in those regions might well have protections in their genetics owing to the previous outbreaks) and are likely to be otherwise healthy, making them excellent test subjects for potential treatments. Furthermore, they will be able to collect blood, stool, saliva, and tissue samples that could speed up the production of preventative medicines and techniques, potentially even a vaccine.
The potential downside
Of course, there are some obvious negatives as well that should be noted. The most obvious would be the potential infection of people closely associated with their care, such as the doctors/surgeons, nurses, CDC personnel, the crew that flew the planes to bring them home etc. Every additional infectee has the potential to be an accidental infector, after all.
Secondarily, there is a presumed risk that bringing them here could introduce the disease to this country, even if it didn’t ever reach epidemic levels. One advantage we have here is that Ebola isn’t currently part of any animal cycles for example, whereas the apes and bats in some areas of Africa maintain Ebola in nature until another human becomes infected. Although it is certain that the CDC will be very careful with all the waste from the quarantine area, there is some fear that there might be a way for the virus to escape and infect animals until we too have some haven where Ebola cannot be fully eradicated.
Are we in danger of an Ebola epidemic?
I would say no, even if the disease could somehow escape the high-level quarantine that the CDC has in place. Ebola is actually poorly suited to creating an epidemic in a first-world country like the United States because of several weaknesses:
- It is infectious, but also extremely obvious. Unlike other disease which allow people to be carriers without even realizing it, most sufferers of Ebola are very obviously sick and people will tend to avoid close proximity to them for this reason. Later stages (namely the bleeding stage) are grounds for CDC intervention or at the very least extreme personal quarantine and make it less likely that Ebola will be spread.
- Ebola is not airborne. Although it can be spread by bodily fluids, including snot from sneezes and the like, that means that isolation and basic hygiene like frequent washing and especially washing/disinfecting hands are very effective at curbing the tide. By contrast many African countries lack the culture of extreme hypochondriacs that we have for one thing and the means to maintain proper cleanliness in general for another. Both of these factors make Ebola much more deadly and infectious there. In Africa you have obviously infected Ebola patients being stolen from care facilities and drug back to the home to spread the disease to others, whereas here most would tend to just hide out or seek a hospital for help.
- Early stages of an epidemic could easily be contained and people better cared for. They trucked those people across an entire ocean back to us for a reason. We would be able to care for people with milder cases of Ebola much more readily, greatly reducing the death toll, and secondary infections in particular could be better dealt with promptly owing to our large antibiotic stocks. Even those who did die would be properly dealt with rather than being sent into the care of people who often use improper hygiene in handling and disposing of the corpse.
- We already cook food and dispose of waste properly. Waste in particular is one way that disease like Ebola readily spread in places without indoor plumbing and access to clean water, with food being a close second. So long as another disaster didn’t attack our electrical and water supplies at the same time, Ebola would find it very difficult to spread.
In general, even if several people from that quarantined room managed to..Continue Reading at Prepared For That: Ebola in America! But is it Really Serious?