by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:
The second biggest Ebola outbreak in history is going on the in the Democratic Republic of Congo right now. It’s second only to the 2014 outbreak that infected nearly thirty thousand people and killed more than 11,000.
And now, it may be here in America.
An American healthcare worker was exposed to the virus while treating patients in the DRC. The worker, whose name has not been released, flew back to the United States on Saturday and was put into quarantine for up to two weeks at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha.
A few things that are important to note here.
The healthcare worker has not tested positive for Ebola, nor is the person showing any symptoms.
If the worker develops Ebola, it still doesn’t mean that he or she would have made fellow travelers sick. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms are exhibited, so if it’s true that there were no symptoms when the person was admitted to the UNMC, then it’s unlikely that the virus was passed on to others.
So it’s not the time to panic. But it’s time to be watchful.
Some details about the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC
The current outbreak in the DRC could easily get out of the country because it’s spread to cities that are major transportation hubs to the rest of the world. There are other variables that are also making it difficult to contain.
WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Peter Salama, called it a “sad toll” as Congo’s health ministry announced the number of cases has reached 426. That includes 379 confirmed cases and 47 probable ones. So far this outbreak, declared on Aug. 1, has 198 confirmed deaths, with another 47 probable ones, Congo’s health ministry said.
Attacks by rebel groups and open hostility by some wary locals have posed serious challenges to health workers that Ebola experts say they’ve never been seen before…
…Day by day, reports by health organizations note one new difficulty after another in this latest outbreak, even as their work sets milestones that have given new hope in the fight against one of the world’s most notorious diseases… the risk of Ebola spreading in so-called “red zones” — areas that are virtually inaccessible because of the threat of rebel groups — is a major concern in containing this outbreak. (source)
This outbreak is also affecting a previously-unseen large number of infants.
Local traditions and fears are making the spread more difficult to contain.
Another major issue with the current outbreak is the lack of understanding of the virus from the locals. Many local traditions and fears are worsening the outbreak.
For example, a group of young people broke into a morgue last week and stole the body of an Ebola victim so that the family could provide a traditional burial – which generally includes a “dance” with the corpse. This is horribly dangerous because the contagion remains after death.
Levels of Ebola virus remain high after death, thus bodies of those who have died from Ebola virus disease must be handled only by people wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and must be buried immediately. WHO advises that bodies of people who may have died from Ebola virus disease should be handled only by trained burial teams, who are equipped to properly bury the dead, safely and with dignity. (source)
And that’s not all. People who are being treated in hospitals frequently make their escapes. Sometimes this is due to fear of the treatment, and other times it’s because the hospital itself is attacked in the ongoing violence in the DRC. This happened over the weekend when 24 patients fled a hospital that was under attack.
Really, it’s a perfect storm – and the world will be lucky if Ebola is contained.
It really seems like it’s not a case of if it gets out…but when.
Why Ebola is so worrisome
Part of the reason Ebola seems particularly terrifying is the graphic presentation, which is the stuff of horror movies. It is a hemorrhagic disease, which means that it can cause bleeding from the mouth, eyes, nose, and rectum. Here’s how it progresses:
The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes. (source)
But it isn’t just the gruesome visuals. The risk of death from Ebola can be anywhere between 50-90%, depending on the strain. This outbreak is the Zaire strain of Ebola, which is the same one that made it to America back in 2014.
The 2014 outbreak that could have spread through America
If you recall, the fact that it didn’t become widespread in the US during the 2014 scare was NOT because it was handled properly. source, and It was sheer luck.
When American Patient Zero, Thomas Duncan, first showed up in a Texas emergency room, he wasn’t tested, despite the fact that he told them he was from Ebola-stricken Liberia. Proper practices were not followed, and one of the nurses who cared for him became the second victim. All sorts of near misses occurred, like the fact that the plane that carried an Ebola patient made FIVE trips before it was sanitized.
The news came out this morning that the second American nurse diagnosed with Ebola flew on a plane with 132 other passengers from Cleveland, Ohio to Dallas, Texas. Amber Vinson had a low-grade fever when she boarded the plane, and was admitted to Texas Presbyterian Hospital just hours after disembarking.
The latest horror?
Not only were 132 people who flew with Vinson exposed to Ebola.
In the time it took the CDC to notify Frontier Airlines of the issue, 5 more flights were made. (source)
That sounds like the plot of a cringe-y movie, where you watch the sneeze spray of an infected person in slow motion landing on everyone nearby. But that wasn’t the only mind-boggling thing that happened.
But that wasn’t the only mind-boggling thing that happened. We brought some exposed people back to the US and put them in hotels.
A couple of days ago an American healthcare worker who had been definitively diagnosed with Ebola was brought back to the US for treatment at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Eleven more patients have been isolated and are on their way to the United States as well, after having had “potential exposure” to the disease.
Now, about those people who were “potentially exposed”?
They aren’t being hospitalized. Oh no. They are being brought back to stay at hotels “near” three different hospitals in different regions of the country. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. (source)
So, I think we can all agree, looking to the National Institute of Health, the CDC, and the WHO to keep us “safe” is not the best fall-back plan. We have to be prepared to take action ourselves should this outbreak turn into a pandemic.
Don’t panic. Just pay attention.
There is usually a little bit of warning before an outbreak becomes severe enough to warrant the title “pandemic.” It isn’t like The Walking Dead, where suddenly 80% of the population is affected overnight. With a pandemic, you hear a little hum about it before it gets bad. The World Health Organization makes some flyers, reports are given, and there is a mention on the evening news. But, generally speaking, officials are stingy with information because they don’t want to “start a panic.” This means that the judicious prepper needs to pay close attention when new viruses begin to be mentioned.