When I published The Jakarta Pandemic in 2010, I had no idea it would be so widely read. Nor did I ever expect to be considered a “source” of information about pandemics. Over the past two months, I have fielded questions from concerned readers, friends, family, readiness bloggers, authors and preparedness consultants regarding the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa. I’ve been rather guarded in my approach to the crisis, having watched it slowly build throughout the summer. When the death toll exceeded previous outbreaks, including the outbreak made famous by the groundbreaking novel The Hot Zone, I started watching it more closely. The novel The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston was the catalyst for my interest in pandemic grade viruses and an inspiration for my first novel.
With that said, I want to share my thoughts on the current crisis and point you in the direction of some balanced, informative articles on the topic…along with a few other resources.
WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT THE EBOLA CRISIS?
I suspect that world health authorities have currently lost control of the virus in Africa. A combination of controllable and uncontrollable factors conspired to worsen this crisis far beyond other Ebola outbreaks. Take a quick look at the following link and you will see that the 2014 outbreak is VERY different from anything we’ve seen in the past.
Until late May of this year, the Ebola outbreak more or less statistically resembled one of the previous outbreaks. In June it became clear to Doctors Without Borders that the disease had spiraled out of control. Here’s a snapshot of a chart provided by the BBC, showing the progression. If only the international community had responded in June or July.
Why didn’t the international community respond swiftly to the growing epidemic? The answer is not as simple as some would like to think. I won’t speculate, but based on the following article, one of the best I’ve seen covering the crisis, I can guarantee you this is not an international conspiracy. The circumstances were ripe for a systemic-wide failure in Africa. You have to read this article by the Washington Post to put it all in perspective.
Clearly, the virus is winning in Africa. Here’s a shorter article from the BBC, highlighting the pleas of the region’s leaders.
The original calculation that we might see 100,000-200,000 plus cases of Ebola in Africa doesn’t sound so far-fetched anymore. I was skeptical of that number at first. Not anymore.
HERE’S MY INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK:
If the international community does not step in and take immediate control of the situation, to include a MASSIVE increase in FUNDS, EQUIPMENT and PERSONNEL, the Ebola virus has a strong chance of overtaking the African continent OR at the very least catapulting central Africa into complete chaos (not a far stretch for this region). A humanitarian crisis already exists there, but it’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Once this escalates out of control, refugees will flee in every direction, by every means possible…
They will reach Europe. They will reach south-west and east Asia. They will reach South America…thereby reaching North America. I don’t think Europe will lose control of the disease, but countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia will not be so fortunate. The more this spreads throughout Asia and Africa, the more chance it will have of reaching North America. RIGHT NOW, the battle is overseas.
Based on what I’ve researched and recently read about the Ebola virus, unless the virus mutates, I don’t anticipate an Ebola outbreak in the United States, regardless of how many cases slip through the southern borders or arrive on poorly screened flights. It’s a relatively tough disease to spread compared to the flu. Read this:
and read this (counter point):
The reality lies somewhere in between. Given out healthcare system (don’t laugh…), I have to agree that this will not take root (in its current form) and burn through the population. There are far bigger healthcare concerns on the horizon…the very near horizon. Seasonal flu kills 40-60,000 Americans every year. Did you get your flu shot? Avian Flu is still out there. Swine Flu. All kinds of nastiness. Read about them in this article:
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
I’m going to disappoint some of you…maybe not. Honestly, I think the worst case scenario you and I might face is a very temporary disruption of our daily lives. If cases of Ebola start to surface in the United States, even at small numbers in contained situations, the population might overreact. The availability of food, medical supplies and public services (schools, public transportation) might be limited for a very short period of time, while the population rushed to react. I don’t see this lasting long, but you should be prepared to spend a week or two at home to avoid getting caught up in some of the uglier behaviors that often arise when people are stressed about their safety—and haven’t adequately prepared.
That’s the perfect transition to my next segment.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You don’t have to do much. Heres a short list of steps to keep yourself out of the fray for a week or so. It might not even be that long if the government can demonstrate that the virus has been contained. If you want to dig deeper into pandemic preparedness or general disaster readiness, check out my latest book (co-authored by Randy Powers) Practical Prepping: No Apocalypse Required.
Actions to Consider:
-Avoid public areas, unless absolutely necessary—and only then when exercising caution and situational awareness. Carrying some kind of self-defense item is advised.
-Fill up your cars’ gas tanks in case you have to leave your residence during the crisis.
-Get some cash to keep on hand. Opportunism flourishes during disasters, and credit cards might not be accepted if you have to travel.
Supplies to Consider:
-Food for 2-3 weeks. Enough to keep you off the streets. I usually recommend having more than that at any given time, but I’m not expecting a pandemic. Just a little panic and brief disruption of the food system.
-First aid kit, expanded to include fever and cold medicine…for what’s most likely to infect you at any given time.
-Toilet paper. Don’t laugh. Can you name another item in your house that is guaranteed to drag you to the store? Tampons? Diapers? Get them.
Take a deep breath and relax. You’re in no immediate danger. Every sneeze and fever is not Ebola. Some of the media has hyped this crisis to the point of PANIC.
Is there cause for alarm? Not yet, and not here.
Will the situation get worse? Definitely in Africa. It may spread to other less developed countries and take hold. I highly doubt it will proliferate in the U.S.
Will I be keeping my eye on the situation? YES. If my assessment changes, you’ll be the first to know. Visit the Prepper/Survival Corner on my blog to see my latest blog posts.
Additional articles of interest: