Recently, I received an email from a reader asking me to blog about Ebola (thanks Don - just what I wanted to write about!). It is a subject that I have stayed away from because, quite frankly, it is a terrifying prospect. And really, there are no good answers. In spite of all of that, we are preppers, and I know that it is always prudent to asses risks and prepare for potential threats - and so, I present Preparedness Essentials - Ebola.
There is one, critical, preparedness essential, that if neglected, renders every other precaution useless and without effect. That essential is a strong, living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Without preparing your soul for eternity, every other preparation you make is of no consequence. Make no mistake - Jesus is your only salvation. Preparing for Ebola has everything to do with your soul and little to do with your body. Without your soul your body is nothing.
WHAT IS EBOLA
Now, on to the nuts and bolts. Ebola is a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever. It is hallmarked by severe bleeding, organ failure and most often, death. Ebola is native to Africa and lives in host animals such as fruit bats, monkeys, chimps and other primates. Scientists believe that Ebola is transmitted from infected animals to humans via bodily fluids such as blood (during butchering), eating infected animals and coming into contact with animal waste.
HOW EBOLA IS TRANSMITTED
After contracting Ebola, it is further transmitted through direct contact (via broken skin or mucus membranes) with blood, secretions (snot, spittle etc.), organs or other bodily fluids of an infected person. Not only are the bodily fluids infectious, so are any surfaces (clothing, beds, tables, the ground) that have come into contact with infected fluids. Ebola remains infectious on dead bodies, rendering the care of the dead risky behavior. A man who has contracted Ebola and recovered can still transmit the virus through his semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery. There is no evidence that Ebola is transmitted via insect bits.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF EBOLA
Signs and symptoms of Ebola manifest within 5 to 10 days of infection. Early symptoms include fever, severe headache, joint and muscle aches, chills and weakness. Basically, Ebola's early symptoms are those of a really bad flu. As the disease progresses so do the symptoms. These increasingly severe symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea (may be bloody), red eyes, raised rash, chest pain and cough, stomach pain, severe weight loss, bleeding (usually eyes), bruising and internal bleeding. People near death may bleed from other orifices such as ears, nose and rectum.
As Ebola progresses, it can cause multiple organ failure, severe bleeding, jaundice, delirium, seizures, coma and shock. If a person does recover, the recovery is long and arduous. Survivors may experience hair loss, liver inflammation, weakness, fatigue, headaches, eye inflammation and testicular inflammation. It may takes months to regain strength and weight.
Immediate and complete quarantine is essential if there is suspected exposure to Ebola. If exposure is confirmed (or even suspected) personal protection equipment (PPE) needs to be immediately deployed. PPE includes non-latex gloves (up to 3 pair at a time), surgical mask, eye shield or goggles and a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown (or Tyvek suit). Along with PPE, basic hygiene rituals must be maintained, which include stringent hand-washing, respiratory hygiene (putting surgical mask on infected patients as well as potentially infected people), and safe burial practices.
Caring for the dead is another critical aspect of containment. The dead must be immediately buried or cremated. If buried, the body must be encased in at least two body bags and buried in a deep grave (away from any water source). Any personal items such as clothing, pillows, linens - anything that came in contact with the infected person must either be buried with the person or burned. The people tasked with caring for the dead must practice rigorous personal hygiene throughout the burial or cremation process. For their own protection, they must wear 3 sets of gloves, masks, goggle, coveralls and boots.
There are no drugs currently available for the treatment of Ebola. Supportive care includes pain and fever management (pain relievers and fever reducers, ie. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.), providing fluids (oral rehydration fluid - can be administered with a baby bottle if required), providing oxygen, replacing lost blood (if possible), treating secondary infections. *
Specific treatments include:
NAUSEA, VOMITING, DIARRHEA
Oral Rehydration Fluid I
1 liter (quart) boiled water
1 tsp. salt
8 tsp. sugar
1 mashed banana (for potassium) if available. Otherwise substitute potassium chloride (salt substitute).
Before adding the sugar, taste the drink and make sure it is less salty than tears.
Oral Rehydration Fluid II
1 liter (quart) boiled water
1/2 tsp. salt
8 heaping teaspoons of cereal (finely ground maize, wheat flour, sorghum, or cooked and mashed potatoes).
Boil for 5 to 7 minutes to form a liquid gruel or watery porridge. Cool the drink quickly and start administering.
Caution: Taste the drink each time it is used to be sure its not spoiled. Cereal drinks can spoil in a few hours in hot weather.
* To either drink add Potassium Chloride or a half a cup of fruit juice, coconut water or mashed, ripe banana. This provides potassium, which may help the person accept more food and drink.
Constant hydration. Hot drinks. Chicken soup (which has anti-viral properties).
- Put the person in a cool place.
- Remove Clothing.
- Fan patient.
- Pour cool (not cold) water over patient or put cloths soaked in cool water on chest and forehead. Fan the cloths and change often to keep them cool.
- Give plenty of cool (not cold) water to drink.
- Administer medicine to bring down fever.
Treatment for Ebola is limited. Make sure that you know the symptoms and be prepared to treat each individual symptom.
The medical aspect of Ebola is sobering, but there are other things to consider as well. If nobody in your family contracts Ebola, but it has reached the North American continent, you'll want to quarantine your own family. The requirements for such an action are many. Be sure to have adequate food, water and other basic necessities. Make sure that you have alternative sources for cooking, heating and waste disposal (in the event public services are temporarily interrupted). Maintain an adequate emergency medical supply cabinet, complete with personal protection equipment, medicines and more importantly, medical knowledge.
Ebola is a threat, along with so many other things in this world. We don't have to be afraid, just prepared. Prepare to the best of your ability, but put your faith and hope in Christ alone.
* Information gathered from WHO International and the Mayo Clinic.
** I am not a doctor! Please see your personal physician for specific treatment options!