Thursday, August 28, 2014

Home Front: Ebola 2014

One of the things that that working in the industry I do, with the academic background I have, when things like the West Africa 2014 Ebola outbreak occur, I have both a cold clinical reaction, and a very fierce panic about all the possibilities.

One of the advantages of working where I do, is that we are kept very well informed of trends and the prospects of this kind of event to affect us as "health workers" but also because of the particular nature of our cohort. We get all the notifications for all the major illness outbreaks from swine flu to gastroenteritis. 

We even get annual influenza immunization as part of our workplace amenities.   The notifications we get are the same kind that hospitals and government agencies around the world issue.

I also follow sources like the CDC, via twitter
through its main site and generally pay attention. I might not be able to tell you who won the World Cup, but this is the kind of news I follow closely.

I lived in Gabon, west Africa when I was 4, and contracted malaria whilst there. Malaria, by way of mosquitoes is one of the biggest killers of humans of all time, nicely tabulated here, and I can personally attest that it is not pleasant at all. However, it is not anywhere as visceral and horrific as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. 

It's also worth noting that Gabon also had it's own Ebola outbreak, in 2002 as did Sudan, and a raft of other central African countries between 1995 and 2014. I've lived and traveled to some exciting places, and have been pretty lucky, health wise.

Given how much air travel has increased since the first modern documented outbreak of Ebola in 1974 has come, and the particularly unpleasant nature of the disease, it's little wonder that it has so vividly peaked our collective imagination.

However, it's methods of transmission, symptoms and prevention methods are now well understood and documented, and the fact that it is so very debilitating runs in favor of public health reaction.

It's horrific presentation and high mortality rates are rightfully alarming, especially when you consider that historically many of its victims were primary healthcare workers. Check out his graphical representation of the history of Ebola outbreaks for some perspective of the current situation. 

The scariest part of this, and other pandemic type threats, especially for a scientifically minded prepper like myself, is that there are diseases with long enough incubation times, and infectivity rates, with symptoms that might be otherwise shrugged off or ignored that we could be exposed to just going about ones normal life.

My recent pieces on public transport, on holiday travel and even going to the supermarket are just reminders of the interactions and environments that most take for granted, that could well leave even the most diligent and forward thinking planners, who happen to look, dress and act like regular folks, without gown, glove and mask.

Who knows what you might be bringing home to your family, into your bunker with you?

The trick, to my mind, however is to not be petrified, but to remain cautious, aware and informed of the risks, likelihoods and trends.

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