In November last year, I wrote about the Ebola crisis in Congo:
… it’s not surprising to me at all that this Ebola outbreak is spreading dangerously far and fast. I see no way whatsoever that it can be controlled, and I think efforts to quarantine the area, to stop it spreading, are pointless. They take no account of the reality on the ground.
A month later, I said this:
I’ve written before about the risks involved. A million people are now in Ebola’s melting-pot. Already some will have fled into the bush, and will be making their way across inter-tribal boundaries and international borders. Based on my knowledge of the area and its people, I no longer think this outbreak can be contained. I hope the authorities are checking air travelers very, very rigorously, because if just a few get on planes to Europe and the Far East while carrying Ebola . . . hell’s coming to breakfast.
I hate being proved right about something so dangerous. From a news report this morning:
Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak is spreading at its fastest rate yet, eight months after it was first detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
Each of the past two weeks has registered a record number of new cases, marking a sharp setback for efforts to respond to the second biggest outbreak ever, as militia violence and community resistance have impeded access to affected areas.
Less than three weeks ago, the WHO said the outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever was largely contained and could be stopped by September, noting that weekly case numbers had halved from earlier in the year to about 25.
But the number of cases hit a record 57 the following week, and then jumped to 72 last week, said WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier. Previous spikes of around 50 cases per week were documented in late January and mid-November.
More alarmingly, more than half of the Ebola deaths last week occurred outside of treatment centers, according to Congo health ministry data, meaning there is a much greater chance they transmitted the virus to those around them.
“People are becoming infected without access to response measures,” Lindmeier told Reuters.
There’s more at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
The authorities in western Congo are running out of resources, running out of aid workers, and running out of time. If this epidemic busts loose from its current geographic confines, it’ll spread throughout Central Africa, all the way to the Indian Ocean; and wealthier refugees fleeing its spread will probably carry it via airline routes to Europe, the Far East and North America before sufficient measures can be put in place to stop them. The current form of the virus appears to have an incubation period of up to 21 days before visible symptoms appear. During that incubation period, the patient is already infectious – they just don’t know it yet. Authorities looking for signs of infection – typically fever, etc. – won’t find any; and in the absence of mandatory, universal quarantine, plus blood testing, for everyone entering a country from the affected areas (which is impossible in practical terms), the infection will get through.
It will take less than a dozen full-blown cases of Ebola to overwhelm the average US city’s medical system, which is utterly incapable of providing the large-scale isolation care required to treat this disease.
Friends, watch this situation very, very carefully. I’ve lived in that part of the world. Ebola is simply a more recent, more virulent strain of West African hemorrhagic fever, known in other forms as Lassa fever, the Marburg virus, etc. I’ve had Lassa fever, and even that milder, attenuated strain damn nearly killed me. Ebola is currently killing at least two out of every three people who contract it; some claim the death toll is as high as 80-90%, depending on location and who’s measuring. Those who survive it are all too often left with a deep, long-lasting reservoir of the disease. They might contract the disease again, or pass it on to anyone with whom they share body fluids, even after recovering from the initial bout.
I’ve already had several readers ask me what practical precautions and preparations they can make, in case Ebola gets loose over here. Frankly, there’s not much we, as individuals, can do to stop this mess. However, I urge you to keep a supply of procedure masks on hand (I use this brand), as well as abundant antiseptic/disinfectant hand cleaner (I prefer a hospital-grade solution like Hibiclens); a supply of nitrile gloves in your and your family’s sizes (thicker, heavier-duty material is preferable, to avoid rips or tears that might expose you to infection – I prefer at least 3 mil, and if possible 5 mil); and sufficient food, water and household necessities in reserve to be able to minimize trips to the store or any other public place. Don’t wait to buy those things until Ebola is already spreading in this country. Right now, they’re freely available and inexpensive. Both conditions will change very quickly if Ebola gets to be more of a threat.