Wednesday, October 1, 2014
More background on the Ebola issue
I noted a few things today in the wake of my article about the crisis last night.
1. As I expected, sales of items related to the threat have skyrocketed. According to CNBC, "Early figures from Amazon bear this out; as of Wednesday sales of a type of full-body protective suits were up 131,000 percent and sales for one type of mask had risen 18,000 percent in 24 hours." Frankly, I'm not sure why people are stocking up on protective suits. You have to wear one every single time you enter a room with an Ebola victim; it takes up to an hour to properly seal yourself into protective gear (and it's very difficult to do without assistance); and you have to discard it as soon as you leave the room - it can't be safely re-used. There's little point in individuals stocking up on an item that requires assistance to put on properly and is intended for trained specialists. I can understand stocking up on breathing masks and examination-type gloves, though. I think everyone should have a small supply of each as part of their basic emergency supplies.
Fortunately, supermarkets appear to have plentiful supplies of bleach and other hygiene items on their shelves. Nevertheless, I've added a couple more large bottles of bleach to my emergency supplies. Mixed with water in a 50-50 concentration, it makes a very good general-purpose disinfectant. (I've been in places in Africa where infectious diseases were rife. It was normal there, before entering a building, to dip one's hands and the soles of one's shoes into containers of this solution, then wash one's hands with soap and water.)
2. Thanks to a comment from reader campbell76209 on my previous Ebola post, I was led to another blog, the Raconteur Report. The author provides a worst-case scenario as to how many people can be infected by one person. I hasten to add that it is a worst-case scenario, but I've seen precisely that scenario play out more than once in West Africa (and when I say 'seen', I mean with my own two eyes). He links to a forum post that's right on the money as far as African conditions are concerned, and will illustrate the threat posed by people flying out of that part of the world. I highly recommend that you read both articles - and a tip o' the hat to campbell76209 for bringing the Raconteur Report to my attention.
3. It seems that the Dallas victim entered the country in Washington DC, then flew to Dallas. Airlines are now scrambling to alert literally hundreds of people who shared planes with him. The risk that any of them were infected is low, but it's far from zero. I hope they can find and warn them all, because if one of them develops Ebola before being tracked down, it'll be another vector for the disease to spread. This shows the danger of modern travel and communications systems - they can spread a disease faster than it can be contained. By now many of the people who shared planes with the victim will have taken connecting flights somewhere else, exposing those aircraft and all aboard them to infection as well.
All of this is a wake-up call to us. Far too many of us are complacent about such issues, dismissing warnings as 'scaremongering' or something similar. They're not. I've been in Central and West Africa and seen for myself how deadly some of these diseases can be. (Ebola's simply the current threat - hemorrhagic fevers similar to it have been around for a very long time, and are nothing new in that part of the world.)
Take care, folks.