What to Do If You’re Worried about Ebola

Ebola articleWe’ve been watching the news about the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa for months now.  As I write this, a lot of people are concerned that the virus is making it’s way to the U.S. as two of the victims, American health workers who have contracted the disease are being brought to a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.  The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a recent speech, stated, “…this outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.”

I am not a doctor or scientist, just a regular person who is wondering “what if?”  A lot of sites have weighed in on this subject, and the news reports all assure the public that the virus will not spread here.  But there are never any guarantees.  All you can do is be aware of what’s going on, hope and pray that the virus is contained.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a virus that causes a horrific hemorrhagic fever with up to a 90% death rate.  The incubation period, or the time between a person is infected until they show symptoms is between 2-21 days.  Symptoms start out like the flu, with cough, sore throat, malaise, fever, aches and pains, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.  At advanced stages, victims get severe bruising and rashes, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting, bleeding from eyes, nose, mouth, multiple organ failure leading to death.  No doubt, it’s a nasty, terrible disease.

How do you prevent it?

From what I have read, preventing it means staying away from blood, secretions and other bodily fluids from infected persons who are symptomatic.  Caregivers must be covered from head to toe, with impenetrable materials to avoid accidentally coming into contact with bodily fluids.  According to the Doom and Bloom Ebola update,

“It’s thought that Ebola doesn’t spread until a victim develops symptoms. As the illness progresses, however, bodily fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding become very contagious. Poor hygiene and lack of proper medical supplies in underdeveloped countries, such as in West Africa impede the progress of medical authorities to tame the outbreak. The best they can do is isolate sick individuals as best they can and follow infectious disease precautions. This is something they are, apparently, not doing so well, because so many medical personnel are getting sick. When the doctors and nurses are dying, you know you have an illness about which to be truly concerned. Imagine if the disease becomes worldwide.”

Is there a cure?

There is no known cure for Ebola; there is no vaccine either.  The only thing that can be done for patients is to keep them comfortable and hydrated, while the patient fights the virus and hopefully gets better on their own.

What can you do to prepare?

We don’t have any control over much of what happens in these developments, all we can do is be aware of what’s happening so we can decide what to do if anything happens.  Just the fact that you’re reading this means you are concerned enough to prepare.  Here are some tips to cope:

  • Don’t panic – This is the last thing you need.  If you are full of fear you will be incapacitated and unable to make proper decisions
  • Have a discussion with your close family members about the situation.  Talk about how you feel and what you would do “just in case”  Things to consider are:  At what point would you miss work or keep kids home from school if there is an outbreak of some kind?  Would you hunker in your home or stay someplace else? 
  • Keep close tabs on the news – be aware of what’s going on.  Learn the facts and stay away from sensationalistic or fear mongering stories.  Here’s a good article 12 Things You Must Know about Ebola by James Hubbard, M.D.
  • Know the laws about quarantine and isolation:  legal authorities will do what is  necessary to stop the spread of disease, including quarantining and isolating possibly infected people if warranted..
  • Learn how to sanitize your home with bleach.  See Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach after an Emergency
  • Stock up on bleach, disposable gloves, masks, toilet paper, trash bags, water, food, first aid supplies, to last for a month just in case.
  • Read The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story    I was terrified to read about the first time the Ebola virus reached the U.S. (suburb of Washington, D.C.) back in the 80s.  Though the story was downplayed at the time, it really happened and now it’s about to arrive again.
  • See my recent article, How an Average Person can Prepare for a Pandemic for more tips on how to prepare.

From the news reports, the treatment facility that will be receiving the patients is well-equipped with isolation environments, protective equipment and everything needed to keep the patients stable.  We’re assured that the personnel are experienced in handling infectious diseases and well-trained in all protocols to protect themselves and everyone else.  I pray for the victims and their caregivers and hope there are no mishaps.

I hope these tips are helpful.  By being aware of what’s going on, and taking a few sensible steps, you will sleep a lot better at night.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

If You Spend any Time Outdoors You Need to Know about This

We just found out a friend of ours who who took his family on a camping trip had to cut his trip short – he ended up in the hospital.   As he was hiking, he brushed against a bush that was infested with hundreds of ticks that imbedded themselves all over him.  Apparently it was so bad the family could not get the ticks off fast enough and he had to go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.

Prior to hearing this story I had not given ticks a lot of thought.  But as I read more about it, I realized ticks can really hurt people and animals.

  • They can easily attach to clothing and pets from the outside and infest your home.
  • Ticks are active in warm weather – late spring and summer.
  • They survive by feeding off animal or human blood.  They transmit disease while feeding off the host.
  • Ticks are found all over the country and spread many diseases:  Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and many others.  I am not a medical professional so for more information, check here
  • Ticks can be found in grassy, wooded areas that have dense vegetation
  • Female ticks can lay up to 11,000 eggs!

How to Avoid becoming a Host or Carrier

  1. Walk along the middle of trails
  2. Avoid high grass and heavily wooded areas.
  3. Choose light colored clothing to allow you to easily spot ticks that get on you.
  4. If you cannot avoid it, take precautions by tucking your pant legs into your boots and tuck you shirt into your pants.
  5. For extra protection, wound duct tape around any vulnerable areas.  Wound around once then twist and expose the sticky side.  I know, not very attractive but I am willing to try it.  See photo above.
  6. Use insect repellants containing 20% DEET on exposed skin.
  7. Spray gear and camping equipment such as tents and backpacks with products containing permethrin.
  8. When returning from wooded areas, inspect clothes and shoes before heading indoors – inspect yourself, children and pets for any “hitchhiking” ticks. Take a shower as soon as possible.
  9. If you have pets, discuss tick prevention programs with your vet.

How to Remove a Tick

  • Use fine tipped tweezers.
  • Grab the tick with the tweezers as closely as possible to the skin.
  • Pull upward firmly but do not twist.  Twisting may cause pieces of the ticks mouth be be left on the skin.  If anything gets left behind, pull out with the tweezers.
  • After removal, cleanse the area and your hands with alcohol, iodine wash, or soap and water

Seek Medical Attention if:

  • You are unable to remove the tick.  This is what happened to the friend I mentioned.
  • Worsening rash
  • Persistent headache
  • Fever
  • Lethargy/Confusion
  • Paralysis
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations

This summer is turning out to be quite a bug-infested season.  If they can cause this much misery during “normal” times, imagine how much worse it could get during a disaster or emergency.

 

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Rare Virus could become Widespread after a Disaster

Everyone saw the news report about visitors at Yosemite National park who stayed at tent-style “signature” cabins in Curry Village becoming exposed to the Hantavirus.   Hantavirus causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) which attacks the lungs and can be fatal.  The disease is carried in the urine, saliva or feces of deer mice and other rodents.  In this particular case, the rodents nested in between the double walls of the cabins, and thus unknowing visitors were exposed to the disease.  As of this writing, the CDC states approximately 10,000 visitors who stayed in the cabins from June through August 2012 have been exposed to the disease.

How do you Catch  Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)?

HPS is caught by people who breath air that has been contaminated by the hantavirus.  The virus is carried by deer mice, cotton rats and rice rats (southeastern states) or the white-footed mouse (northeastern states).  Their droppings, urine and nests contain the virus.  The virus becomes airborne if the droppings are touched or moved.  People can catch it by:  breathing in the contaminated air, touching any surface that is corrupted then touching their eyes or mouth, eating contaminated food or getting bitten by a rodent carrier (rare).  Fortunately, the disease is not spread from person to person.

Who is at Risk of Catching HPS?

People who come into contact with infected materials and rodents are at risk.  Unfortunately, if a person unknowingly stays in a place that has been infested (such as the Curry village cabins), they are at risk.  Other potential exposure situations include:  camping or hiking, cleaning up previously unopened areas such as basements, buildings or storage areas, working in rodent infested spots.

Symptoms

Early symptoms can occur one to five weeks after exposure:  flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, headache, dizziness, chills.  Later, the victim experiences extreme coughing, shortness or breath and finally, difficulty breathing as the lungs become more impaired.  The disease can be fatal.

How to Prevent Exposure

The best way to prevent exposure is to eliminate rodents from the home or workplace:

  • Seal up all cracks and possible rodent entries
  • Trap and dispose of rats and mice
  • Take precautions when cleaning up infested areas:  wear N-95 masks, heavy duty gloves, and disposable coveralls.
  • What you are trying to do is avoid disturbing the poopy dust particles so they don’t fly into the air.  For spraying the area, mix 1 1/2 cups bleach with one gallon of water.  Spray the infected area then let it settle for five minutes.  Wipe it up with paper towels, then dispose of all the waste in a sealed container.  Clean up the surfaces with the said bleach-water solution one more time then leave.   Before taking off your gloves, wash with soap and water and dry gloves.  Wash your own hands with soap and water as well.

Apartment Dwellers

  • You may be clean but you don’t know what your neighbors’ habits are like.
  • Keep an eye out for possible rodent infestations.
  • If you see rats, mice or droppings, report it to your building management immediately.
  • If your outside trash bins are continually full or overflowing, complain about this to maintenance or management as well.
  • Don’t neglect pest control as part of your prepping efforts.
  • When choosing a new unit, look at the cleanliness of the buildings as you tour new apartments.

What does this have to do with us city dwellers? 

It sounds really far-fetched right now, as we are only hearing about a few cases in a far off national park in Yosemite, California.  However, hantavirus has made its appearance nationwide, except for Alaska and Hawaii.  If there were a widespread disaster, and sanitation becomes limited, rodents will multiply and disease will spread.  Being aware of this risk now behooves everyone.

I’m no expert in the subject but want everyone to be aware of this risk.  Readers who are interested in more in-depth information about this should visit Hantavirus in the Centers for Disease Control website.

 

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Beware the Super Bug that’s All Around Us

At the office today we heard about a colleague who was admitted to the hospital and won’t be back for a while.  She had a small wound that steadily got worse, leading to an infection, fever and now a hospital stay.  She had to be treated with IV antibiotics, and will need to wear a bag near the wound site to continuously flush the wound with antibiotics for a month.  Her husband who helped change her gauze bandage before they knew what she had, had a small shaving cut, and he caught it as well.  He was not hospitalized, but now has to take strong oral antibiotics.  The couple is in their mid-thirties, and were in good health until this incident.

What Happened to Them?

My colleague contracted MRSA, which stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureos.  MRSA is deemed a “super bug” because it is a type of bacteria that is resistant to most common antibiotics such as Amoxycillin, Penicillin, Oxacillin and Methillin.   Her husband, who helped change her dressing, must have touched the infected bandage, touched his own skin and inadvertently caught it himself.

Judging by the reaction at the office, many people are not aware of MRSA.  So I thought I’d better do some research to spread the word about this highly contagious and potentially deadly (if left untreated) condition.

I found out there are two kinds:

HA- MRSA:  Healthcare Associated MRSA – the kind that is spread in hospitals, long term care facilities, nursing homes or other care centers.  Patients who are affected may have had surgery, or wears a catheter or had some kind of in a health care facility.  Average age of patients who catch HA-MRSA:  68 years old.

CA-MRSA:  Community Associated MRSA – this affects healthy people who have never even gone to the hospital.  Average age of people who contract it:  23 years old.

Of the two types, my understanding is HA-MRSA is more resistant than CA-MRSA but both can turn dangerous nonetheless.

How do you Catch It?

Both types share the following “C’s” to remember:

-         Crowding

-         Cuts

-         Contaminated surfaces or skin

-         Un- Clean surroundings

-         Contact with skin

Who is at Risk of Catching it?

-Diabetics

-Anyone with a compromised or weak immune system

-Young children

-Elderly

-College students in dorms, children in child care centers, or personnel in military installations

-People who go to the beach where waters are known to carry the bacteria such as Florida or West Coast beaches

-Anyone who uses locker rooms or gyms

-Healthcare workers

-Hospital patients or long term care facilities

As you can see, a wide swatch of the population is at risk.  Some medical professionals believe the bacteria can be present anywhere, including our own nostrils.  Usually, nothing happens, but it becomes dangerous when it enters the bloodstream through a cut.

What are the Symptoms?

  •  The injured area becomes red, swollen and painful.  The area may become filled with pus and drainage may occur.
  • Other symptoms include headache, muscle aches, fever, and chest pain.
  • Worsening symptoms may include high fever, chills, difficulty breathing, joint pain, low blood pressure, severe headache and extreme fatigue
  • The infection can enter the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning, other organs getting infected and pneumonia.

See your doctor if you experience these symptoms.  Most of the time oral antibiotics can easily cure the infection.  However, if the infection continues or keeps getting worse even after taking the prescribed antibiotics, call your doctor to report your condition.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

I don’t want you to become alarmed or paranoid, but just be aware so you can protect yourself and your family with these common sense steps:

  1.  Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.  Also teach children proper hand washing technique.  Hand washing should last long enough to be able to sing “Happy Birthday,” or recite the alphabet.  If unable to wash your hands, wiping with an alcohol bases sanitizer will suffice.
  2. Do not share towels or razors.  You may not do this yourself, but again, teach your kids, as a lot of teenagers in locker rooms may do so.
  3. Treat any cuts, burns or insect bites or puncture wounds, even minor ones, with an antiseptic and cover them with a band-aid.
  4. Avoid touching anyone else’s wounds or use sterile gloves if you are helping dress a wound with gauze or bandage.
  5. Restrict usage of antibiotics, as widespread antibiotic use causes bacteria to become more resistant.
  6. Wipe down any surfaces when using machines at the gym.

In a long-term disaster, the spread of bacteria such as MRSA can only get worse with reduced sanitation and possible lack of medical facilities.  For your emergency supplies, stock up on band-aids, hydrogen peroxide, Bactine, sterile gloves for your First Aid kit.  Don’t forget to stock up on water for washing, soap, and antibacterial cleaners.

Disclaimer:  I am not a healthcare professional; all recommendations are for information purposes only and not to be taken as medical advice.  Do your own research or see your doctor for specifics about MRSA if you are concerned. 

For more fast and easy tips to become more prepared, read my book:

Get the real deal. Whether bugging out or sheltering in place, you can never have enough clean water for survival: For your water purifier needs, please visit:

 

An inexpensive but helpful tool to keep track of supplies (Iphone or Ipad users)