This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is still very much in the news. Most news articles keep stressing that it is unlikely to reach the U.S. and downplay any threats. On the other hand, the CDC has released guidelines for hospitals should an infected person were to present himself. New projections estimate that 500,000 may be infected by the end of January. (Note: Since the article was written, the estimates have now been revised to 1.4 million)
Earlier this week, Urban Survival had a good discussion about it: When Will Ebola Infect the Markets? Mr. Ure brought up a good point that if people got desperate enough, they would say anything or do anything to get out of their area and fly somewhere. The problem would be if they were already infected and didn’t know it, then get on a plane, potentially exposing hundreds of people.
How people can get exposed in a hospital
Consider for a moment what could happen when a person who appears to have flu-like symptoms but has Ebola were to go the emergency room.
- The person signs in and sits down before getting called. If they appear to be in urgent need, they may get seen quicker than others, but either way, they sit in a waiting room with people on either side, in front and behind them. These people could potentially be exposed. I should state that all reports say they virus is not airborne, yet a few healthcare workers who have suits on still seem to catch it somehow. Let’s say just four people are exposed, being on the conservative side. There would be more if the hospital is in a busy urban area.
- The patient then gets called to speak to a billing person who interviews him or her regarding insurance and payment. That person could now be exposed.
- Finally, the patient is sent inside the emergency department. While waiting for the doctor, a nurse or assistant takes their blood pressure, temperature, questions them about symptoms, etc. None of these personnel were protective clothing. Now we have seen five people exposed, from the minute the patient came in.
- Finally, the person is seen by a doctor, who then orders that the patient be admitted. The doctor is now the 6th person who came in contact with the infected patient.
If the patient is not immediately identified as contagious, more workers will be taking x-rays, wheeling the patient around in elevators, etc. By now, there could be at least 10 people exposed.
At a recent doctor’s appointment, I asked the doctor if he was at all concerned about the spread of Ebola in the U.S. This was around the time the first patient was sent to Emory University Hospital. My doctor indicated was not too worried, since he was very familiar with Emory and they have the best infection control policies and equipment. However he said, “unless some grievous error were to happen,” in other words, a medical mistake, which can happen if there were more infected patients. I’ve worked in hospitals in the past, and accidents do happen. Even the most careful, rigorous protocols occasionally fail. I don’t want anyone to panic by any means, but to consider the possibility and make a plan just in case.
A few things to think about:
- Are you at risk for infection if the virus spread to your town or city? Densely populated areas tend to have people living closer together, thus increasing the risk of exposure. If you live in an apartment building that has common areas such as coffee rooms, reception areas, swimming pool, management office and elevators, you may need to away from these areas should there be a pandemic.
- At what point would you keep everyone at home? When would you skip work, have your partner stay home, and keep kids from school?
- Would you stay in your apartment or home, or leave and go to a safer, less populated location? Many city dwellers do not have a bug-out location, but do have family or friends outside of town who may be in a less crowded area. Now is the time to think about this, before anything happens.
- Are you prepared for a lockdown? You’ll need enough food and supplies for a couple of weeks without having to shopping. You won’t want to run out of toilet paper, prescriptions and other essentials if you are trying to avoid crowds and exposure.
- If someone at home were to get sick, do you have supplies to get you through? You would need sick room supplies such as protective clothing (gloves, protective goggles) lots of disinfectant such as bleach, antibacterial wipes, basic first aid supplies, etc.
I don’t have all the answers, but I hope this exercise gets you thinking and getting a few supplies just in case. If nothing happens, then we can all be relieved and grateful. Just like with any other disaster, if the dreaded event happens, it’s best to be prepared. See What to Do If you are Worried about Ebola
Apartment Prepper readers know I am not given to fear-mongering and I try to take a common sense approach to preparing for disasters. I pray the troops who are sent to help with the outbreak stay safe and hope that current measures are enough to contain the ebola outbreak and it will burn out soon.
© Apartment Prepper 2014