Friday, August 29, 2014

West Africa Ebola Outbreak 2014 Facts

If I were the CDC and DHS, I'd be pushing down something at least like this to the states, local municipalities, hospitals & other health care facilities, universities, and schools. That's tough to do, I understand, so I'm just going to do my little part and offer this up here. This is based off of my own private, limited research of the topic.

1. Ebola is spread by bodily fluids. To what degree, science does not seem certain yet, and thus fluids as innocuous as sweat and tears are still considered dangerous.

2. One strain that affected a U.S. facility decades ago was thought to possibly be aerosolized since it seemed to pass across two rooms via HVAC. This hasn't been proven, and the disease in action has not shown signs of being as easily passed as a cold or influenza.

3. It has a 21 day incubation period. During this time, it is not infectious until a patient is symptomatic.

4. Symptoms begin with a severe sore throat and high fever, quickly moving to bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

5. Quick identification and reaction to symptoms is important because:
  • The subject and those exposed must be secluded and monitored to prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Most municipalities do not have the personal protective equipment and most local hospitals do not have the means to create an isolation ward, and it will take some time to acquire those means. This will be even more crucial if the disease shows in multiple regions at about the same time.
6. The current outbreak:
  • Was not well diagnosed early on, which lead to its spread to urban areas.
  • Has largely been confined to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leonne, and Senegal.
  • This is the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history. This is largely due to the spread of the disease to densely populated, urban areas.
  • As of 8/20/2014, approximately 3000 have been infected and 1500 have died. This makes it a less lethal strain, as some strains approach 80% fatalities.
  • Liberia is a current location of concern. On 8/18/2014, protests in the West Point area of Monrovia looted an Ebola clinic, leaving with infected patients, bedding, clothes, and supplies. West Point has since been sealed off by the Liberian military.
  • There is a general cultural distrust of doctors in this region, and some even believe doctors are intentionally infecting them with the disease, leading people to hide their early symptoms and hide relatives with more advanced symptoms, increasing transmission rates.
  • Also contributing is a cultural habit of contact with corpses at funerals. An American who returned for his sister's funeral may have contracted the disease this way. He became symptomatic on his return travels to the Twin Cities and later died in Africa.
7. So why is this important?
  • Ebola is entirely containable, but a nation's infrastructure must be prepared to quickly identify potential victims and isolate them and monitor those exposed. If it doesn't, the disease can start to strain the first response and health care system quickly.
  • American first responders and its health care system largely do not have plans or resources in place to handle outbreaks of a disease of this type. This makes early identification all the more important. Every from teachers to police to firefighters to EMTs to health care professionals to the average American needs to be knowledgeable as to the signs of the disease to aid in the earliest possible containment of individual cases. Otherwise, it could quickly strain society's ability to handle it.