On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding the latest actions and warnings on the part of the US government concerning the increasingly worrisome spread of the Ebola virus.
Early Friday morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had been "vastly underestimated" and "extraordinary measures" were needed to contain the disease. They indicate that Ebola treatment centers in West Africa are filling up faster than they can be provided. The announcement came less than a day after the US State Department issued a travel warning for American citizens to avoid all unnecessary travel to Sierra Leone as well as ordered the families of embassy staff in Freetown, Sierra Leone to evacuate the country.
Threat to the Oil Industry
Concern is also increasing regarding the potential for an expansion of the outbreak in Logos, Nigeria, Africa's most populous city, which has seen the number of confirmed cases and deaths growing. According to Moody's rating agency, a serious outbreak in Lagos could severely disrupt the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, Africa's largest producer, if international companies are forced to evacuate staff and local operations are shut down.
No Hajj for You!
In light of the threat the Ebola virus's spread and the danger it poses, the government of Saudi Arabia announced this week it has suspended the visas of all pilgrims from Ebola affected countries intending to participate in the upcoming Hajj.
Ebola Cases in Europe?
Additionally, health authorities are investigating possible cases in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. For those scratching their heads on that one, these countries are gateways used by immigrants from the African continent who land in Greece and are making their way to Western Europe (see map). A member of France's national assembly, Patrick Balkany, also claims that there are several cases of Ebola now in France being hidden from the public though the French government is pushing back on the reports. More than 30% of France's immigrant population comes from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kenya Classified as High Risk
At least one airline has announced it is suspending flights to and from the east African nation of Kenya, which, while not having recorded any Ebola cases, is one of the main aviation hubs for flights across the entire continent, as well as to the rest of the world. The WHO has classified Kenya as a "high-risk" country for the spread of the virus. There is a high likelihood that other airlines will follow suit in the coming days and weeks.
U.S. Hospitals Scramble to Prepare as Death Toll Climbs
There are now more than 2000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 1000 deaths. And these are just the reported cases. As U.S. hospitals scramble to prepare for the eventual arrival of patients infected with the virus, many are questioning CDC extremely weak guidance on suggested protective measures, particularly in light of the increasing number of healthcare workers becoming infected. At the beginning of this week the WHO reported there were 170 current healthcare worker cases as well as 81 deaths. These numbers appear to not include revelations later in the week by Liberian authorities that 40 health workers were infected. Sierra Leone also revealed late this week that 32 nurses have died since the start of the outbreak.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
AlertsUSA cautions readers that flu season is fast approaching. Given that standard flu symptoms such as fever, vomiting, sore throat, coughs, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches are also early symptoms of an Ebola infection, medical facilities in the U.S. and Canada are facing a nightmare scenario.
On one hand, there will be the regular seasonal surge of those suffering from influenza seeking treatment. On the other hand, given that Ebola is one of the most dangerous and virulent pathogens known to exist and the stark similarities in early symptoms to the flu, medical facilities may be forced to take drastic measures with each and every patient, including possible isolation and quarantine, until a laboratory confirms a diagnosis. There are few other options. And as the Director of the CDC stated just last week, Ebola's arrival in the U.S. is "inevitable."
It is with the approach of this problem that AlertsUSA fully expects in the coming weeks for federal health authorities to announce activation of a "National Nurse Triage Line" in order to help manage persons with influenza-like illnesses and to electronically or telephonically transfer authorized prescriptions to local pharmacies. Such a capability was actually put in place last year by the Dept. of Health and Human Services over concerns of a possible bird flu pandemic.
With this potential perfect storm of confusion right around the corner, AlertsUSA recommends that readers strongly consider getting both a seasonal influenza and pneumonia vaccination soon. While this will in no way offer protection from a possible Ebola infection, it WILL help increase your chances of not having to approach a medical center in the first place.
Consider Yourself Forewarned: The spread of the Ebola virus is expected to continue for many months to come. As such, the chances are good that during the upcoming flu season, if you present yourself to a hospital or clinic with flu-like symptoms, and in particular, a respiratory infection, you may have a nightmare experience that includes forced quarantine until the staff receives laboratory confirmation of what ails you. This can already be seen in reports from hospitals and airports around the world when individuals show up just running a fever (see this, this and this).
Additionally, AlertsUSA again strongly recommends that airline travelers and those using public transportation become hyper sensitive about your proximity to those visibly ill during your trips. While health authorities stress that Ebola is not airborne, it is believed to be transmissible, as with most other contagions, via airborne saliva droplets, such as those released in coughs and sneezes.
TAKE NOTE : The CDC now admits that casual contact, meaning anywhere within 3 feet of an infected person, does pose a risk of transmission [Emphasis added ].
"Casual contact is defined as a) being within approximately 3 feet (1 meter) or within the room [or airline cabin] or care area for a prolonged period of time (e.g., healthcare personnel, household members) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment (i.e., droplet and contact precautions–see Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations); or b) having direct brief contact (e.g., shaking hands) with an EVD case while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment (i.e., droplet and contact precautions–see Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations)."
As such, your increased, polite vigilance can only be a benefit to your overall safety.
Finally, we again remind readers that AlertsUSA has established an Ebola preparedness site offering clear, well sourced information on the virus, government actions to mitigate the spread, as well as some sensible preparedness suggestions for you and your family to consider.
CDC - Case Definition
CDC - Ebola Page
WHO - Ebola Page
CDC - Ebola Guidance for Airlines
CDC - Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients
with Known or Suspected Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in U.S. Hospitals
CDC - Safe Management of Patients with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in U.S. Hospitals World Health Organization Ebola Page
CDC - Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine
CDC - Specific Laws and Regs Governing the Control of
CDC - Final Rules for Control of Communicable Diseases:
Interstate and Foreign
Previous AlertsUSA Threat Journal Coverage and Resources
August 9, 2014
August 2, 2014
July 26, 2014
March 29, 2014
As always, AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor developments with the spread of this virus and will immediately notify service subscribers of major changes in its spread to different regions, important notices and warnings by government agencies or any other major changes in the overall threat environment as events warrant.