Here at Top Secret Writers, we always try to break through the hype on either side of a situation like this. Usually that means cutting through the false rhetoric of fear mongering. Unfortunately, in the case of the Ebola outbreak, there is disinformation on both sides of the aisle.
In some cases the public is told that public fear is outpacing Ebola’s spread. Yet, others are spreading fear and panic about the situation, so where does the truth lie? As usual, it’s somewhere in the middle. The bottom line is that you should be concerned, and you should start preparing now.
The Ebola Virus
If there should be any balanced source of information out there, it should be the World Health Organization (WHO).
Who describes ebola as “a severe, often fatal illness in humans”.
It describes the spread of Ebola as occurring through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, which can also occur by touching surfaces that those people have touched and left any bodily fluid.
How Bad is the Ebola Outbreak?
The difficult information to find is just how bad the current outbreak is. WHO defines a pandemic using its “pandemic alert system”, using 6 phases. Phase 1 is when a virus is found in animals, but can’t be transmitted to humans – all the way up to Phase 6, which includes “community-level outbreaks” that take place in an additional country outside of a region in phase 5.
What’s Phase 5? That would be when the spread of disease is taking place in more than one country. Meaning – we’re one phase below a full-blown Phase 6 global pandemic at the moment.
WHO predicts how many people may die from a pandemic using four criteria:
– How many people become infected
– How virulent the disease is
– How vulnerable the population is
– How effective preventative steps are
Given those criteria, the situation doesn’t look very good. As of a day ago, there were 8,914 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola, and roughly 4,447 deaths so far. How virulent is the virus? With those numbers, the mortality rate is nearly 50%. Yes, that means there’s a 50-50 chance a person will die if they get infected by the Ebola virus.
According to the Wall Street Journal, WHO expects the reported cases to hit 9,000 by the end of this week, and 10,000 new cases every week by December. (1)
How Bad Is This Threat?
Let’s face it, authorities don’t want to instill panic in the public. They don’t want everyone staying home from work and school, and putting society at a total standstill. This could result in untold financial losses in every country.
So when do you need to start worrying? The picture varies depending on where you look.
On October 10th, The Washington Post published an article titled, “Ebola fears spread faster than the virus”, where the Post wrote that, “…it is exceedingly unlikely that it will become a medical crisis here in the United States.” (2)
The author then continues to advise readers:
What you shouldn’t do it let people persuade you that the virus is going to run rampant all over the planet.
Meanwhile, in other news, a second confirmed Ebola case was revealed – a second nurse who treated the Texas Ebola patient who died. Yes, nothing to worry about. Right?
Not according to NPR News, who published an article titled, “A Frightening Curve: How Fast Is The Ebola Outbreak Growing?”
There, the author explained to readers what President Obama meant when he said in September that the outbreak is advancing “…in an exponential fashion.”
According to NPR, if nothing changes, there could be as many as 60,000 Ebola cases by the end of 2014. Dr. Alessandro Vespignani of Northeastern University predicted that mid-October would see between 10,000 to 25,000 cases. As of October 15th, the model only fell short 1,000 cases. (3)
The Projected Pandemic
The “exponential curve” that scientists are using, based on the current rate of how the disease is spreading, puts the numbers at nearly 30,000 in November, and 60,000 by December.
The following model is an example of how a global pandemic spreads across the globe, based on research by Dirk Brockmann of Humbroldt University, and Dirk Helbing of ETH Zurich.
NPR news quoted associate professor at Columbia University as so shocked by the results of his models that “…he was afraid to make them public.
“I didn’t want to scare people. But we’re really in uncharted territory here. We’ve never had a sustained outbreak of Ebola like this, certainly nothing of this magnitude.”
As the third Ebola case in Texas makes the news, people are surely wary about officials trying to assure the American public that everything is under control. Unfortunately, the second nurse diagnosed with Ebola flew on a commercial flight from Cleveland to Dallas the day before she reported her symptoms.
Who did she come in contact with? What bodily fluids did she potentially leave on doorknobs, public restrooms, or on her airplane seat, that other people came in contact with?
Back in July, the Director of the CDC Dr. Tom Friedan told reporters that “There is little risk to the American population.”
This is the same Dr. Tom Friedman who is now advising U.S. hospitals:
“For any hospital anywhere in the country that has a confirmed case of Ebola, we will put a team on the ground within hours.” (4)
Not exactly a statement a CDC Director would need to make if there’s “little risk to the American public.” The statement was in response to health care workers in Texas and across the country complaining that they are worried that hospitals don’t have the facilities or resources available to safely care for patients with Ebola.
What Can You Do?
Believe it or not, there’s a U.S. Government website called Ready.gov that has a page on how to prepare yourself for a pandemic. The top of the list is the same advice most survivalists will also typically advise:
“Store a two week supply of water and food. During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand.”
But what do you do, and when do you activate your “survival plan”? ABC News actually published a great list of what you should do to prepare for an epidemic that threatens humanity. The basic version of that list is as follows:
– Stock up on Essentials: You’ll need a good supply of everything if you’re going to stay home for a few days to a week to avoid the public.
– Have an Outbreak Plan – Make sure your family knows what to do in a worst-case pandemic scenario. If you have special health needs, figure out how those would be met during a week or two of in-home “quarantine”.
– Healthy Behavior: Start practicing “disease-avoidance” behaviors, including washing your hands after touching objects other people touch, and use antibacterial lotion frequently. This is especially true if there are any news reports of the virus striking very close to your area of the country.
Yes, stocking up on supplies now and preparing for the situation where you may need to be isolated from society for an extended period of time may make you the butt of a few jokes among your friends.
However, when the situation rapidly escalates and store shelves dry up of essential goods – they won’t be laughing for very long. Prepare yourself and your family now, and you definitely will have nothing to fear, even in a worst case scenario of a global Ebola pandemic.