Whether they are bacteria-based or viral, infectious diseases pose a threat to every human on earth. And once they become an epidemic, it’s not too long before they can become a global pandemic.
The World Health Organization recently declared the Ebola outbreak in Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “a global emergency.” The agency has officially classified it as a level 3 emergency--the most serious classification.
You may remember the last Ebola outbreak in 2014, when a Liberian man named Thomas Eric Duncan accidentally carried Ebola to the US while visiting family in Dallas. He died in the hospital, and the two nurses who treated him became infected. Fortunately, they recovered, and the virus was contained before it could spread further.
Now that there is another epidemic, it makes sense to study up on Ebola and the potential risks we now face. That’s why today, I’m going to cover the basics: what Ebola is, how it spreads, and what’s happening in the Congo to warrant a warning from the World Health Organization. From there, I will provide you with essential tips to make sure you’re fully prepared for a possible pandemic.
First things first...
What Is Ebola and How Does It Spread?
Ebola is a deadly disease caused by an infection with a group of viruses within the genus Ebolavirus. Scientists believe that people are initially infected via a spillover event, which happens when a human comes in contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or nonhuman primate.
Fortunately, Ebola isn’t a highly infectious airborne disease. It spreads from person to person via direct contact, such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. The Center for Disease Control lists the following as methods of transmission:
- Contact with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola.
- Objects (such as needles and syringes) contaminated with body fluids from a person sick with Ebola or the body of a person who died from Ebola.
- As mentioned above, contact with infected animals.
- Semen from a man who recovered from Ebola (through oral, vaginal, or anal sex).
Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after contact with the virus and include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained hemorrhage.
The disease can be painful, unforgiving, and deadly. Although scientists believe they are close to developing a vaccine, there isn’t one at the present moment. Which makes the fact that the situation in the Congo is getting worse every day particularly worrisome.
Ebola in the Congo
The latest resurgence of the disease in central Africa started around a year ago, but intensified when the virus arrived in the Congolese city of Goma after an infected man traveled there. This is significant because Goma is a large city and transit hub, complete with an international airport.
The outbreak is the second largest Ebola outbreak in history. With over 2,500 cases and 1,700 deaths in eastern Congo, the epidemic is no small ordeal. As National Geographic reported, “teams trying to track the spread of the disease are finding fresh cases with no obvious connection to previous patients, leading some health specialists to worry that the end of this epidemic is nowhere in sight.”
Three additional factors are only making matters worse...
- National Geographic reports that “efforts to contain the virus also have been hindered by the path of the outbreak, which is spreading through areas marked by a deep distrust of foreigners, and therefore more hesitance to seek treatment.” Health workers are constantly attacked by Congolese who don’t believe that Ebola exists.
- Ongoing violence and political turmoil in the region have made it increasingly tricky for aid workers to stop the spread of the outbreak.
- The World Health Organization is currently experiencing delays in funding to stop the epidemic due to a pause in pandemic bonds from the World Bank typically used to tackle the crisis. This delay will only allow the number of those infected to grow--increasing the likelihood of a pandemic.
Evidently, Ebola has been a huge issue in the Congo and central Africa, generally speaking. But you may be wondering at what point Americans should be concerned...
Can Ebola Reach the United States?
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Global Health Law, said that he’s “not at all optimistic that the epidemic will be brought under control in the near to medium term. All the data point in the direction of an extended epidemic. With ongoing community distrust and explosive violence, and no concrete plan to overcome these obstacles, cases will increase with potential regional or global transmission.”
New York, Miami, Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles are the likeliest US cities to receive passengers from the Congo, and because the incubation period can last up to 21 days, infected individuals may travel before they ever show symptoms.
Although the likelihood of the spread of Ebola to the US at the present moment is low, it’s always good to take extra precautions and prepare for the potential in advance.
Things happen, situations escalate, and you don’t want to be caught without the necessary supplies or know-how for a pandemic.
In the case of Ebola coming to the United States, you will be better off understanding and keeping the following tips in mind…
#1: Maintain basic hygiene: As the World Health Organization shares, “Ebola is a disease that spreads because of lack of hygiene.” Make sure you and your family continue to practice principles of basic hygiene and sanitation. Keep lots of soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer at home, in your car, and at the office. Wash your hands thoroughly and often. If for some reason, your family member becomes infected with an infectious disease, Ebola or not, you need to be extra careful and use medical gloves while caring for him or her.
#2: Stay informed: In the case of an outbreak in the United States, you can remain up-to-date on alerts and suggestions broadcast by the CDC and other official bodies. Whether you listen to the radio, check the internet, or watch the news on television, find a consistent medium to help you remain aware of what’s happening.
#3: Maintain your health: People who are already weak and in poor health are going to be most susceptible to contracting an infectious disease. Before a disease like Ebola reaches the States, make sure you are eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and seeing a doctor on a regular basis. Boost your immunity with supplements and electrolytes such as our Orange Energy Drink Mix.
#4: Consult your doctor: I can provide some of these basic preparedness principles for pandemics. But I’m no medical professional. Your doctor will be able to answer more of your medical-specific inquiries, and if you suspect you’ve been infected, it’s better to see him or her sooner rather than later. As the BBC reports, “If you get to a treatment centre in the first two days of symptoms, you have a 95% chance of being healed. But if you go 10 days after symptoms begin, you have a 95% chance of dying.”
Keeping eyes and ears on the Ebola epidemic in the Congo will ensure that you know the latest information and will be one of the first to know when it potentially reaches the United States.
Have a great weekend. Stay alert, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply