Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola — The Hard Reality

Hasmat SuitOne of the biggest survival issues to come along in nearly a century is the Ebola virus outbreak.

There hasn't been a potentially global threat to survival as serious as this one since the Spanish Flu pandemic that ran from January 1918 to December 1920, and is estimated to have killed up to 100 million people worldwide. That amounted to a death toll claiming up to 5% of the world's population.

Of the Spanish Flu, it has been said that it was "the greatest medical holocaust in history. It may have killed more people than the Black Death. It killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, and more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century."

Some might say that comparing the current Ebola outbreak to the Spanish Flu pandemic is not a fair comparison. So far, only 4,000 ebola patients have died, so the numbers aren't even close. But what, in my estimation, makes it fair to compare these two diseases is the fact that:
  • They are both virus-based, so antibiotics won't work
  • They both originated in primitive locations (the Spanish Flu in rural China, ebola in rural West Africa)
  • They both spread human-to-human, crossing national borders easily via modern transportation
  • They both exhibit extremely high mortality rates — Spanish Flu killed up to 20% of those who were infected — Ebola kills up to 70%. 
  • Both caught the medical community unprepared to properly diagnose or treat the illness.
  • Both begin with flu-like symptoms that are not extremely alarming, but then escalate rapidly into death-dealing complications.
  • Both diseases escalate rapidly, spreading exponentially as carriers transmit the virus to other people. With the Spanish Flu, it was detected by a doctor at Fort Riley Kansas treating a soldier on October 4th. Within a week, over 100 soldiers were sick. Days later, 522 were sick. With the latest Ebola outbreak, it began with a 2-year-old child in December 2013 who is suspected of contracting the virus through contact with an animal. In the 10 months since that time, the disease has spread across West Africa, to Europe, and to the United States. Although there have been only 4,000+ deaths so far, the World Health Organization predicts that within the next two months, there may be as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases PER WEEK. 
The Centers For Disease Control has gone to great lengths to downplay the risks to the public, but here is the official information from the CDC website.
No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola.
  • Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
  • Treating other infections if they occur
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.

Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It isn't known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.

Already, there are active cases of Ebola being spread to health care workers who were wearing full protective clothing while treating patients. Nevertheless, the CDC insists that Ebola is difficult to catch and can only be contracted through direct contact with bodily fluids. That does not seem to be the case, and I expect that we will see the CDC release more honest information in days to come.

For now, we know that there is no treatment for Ebola. We know that if you become sick with Ebola, you will likely die. There are indication that, contrary to official propaganda, it is easily transmitted from person to person.

All of those realities give me reason enough to say that the Ebola outbreak has to potential to rival the Spanish Flu as a global pandemic.

Survival advice:
  • Avoid personal contact with anyone who exhibits flu-like symptoms; fever, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • When out in public, be careful what you touch. Disease can be left behind by others, and picked up by you. Use hand wipes or wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth (the easiest entry points for Ebola). 
  • If you have symptoms, call the hospital at once. Let them come and get you — don't go wandering around in public, because you may transmit the disease to others.