On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding the West African Ebola outbreak, the first diagnosis of an infected individual here in the U.S. and the fumbling of the response by federal and state public health agencies as well as the receiving hospital.
On Monday, 9/29, subscribers were some of the first in the nation to learn that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas was reporting treatment of individual possibly infected with Ebola. The determination is said to have been made based on physical symptoms and recent travel history.
On Tuesday. 9/30, subscribers were then notified that the CDC had confirmed positive test results for the virus. According to a formal statement by the CDC, the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, departed Monrovia, Liberia Sept. 19 and arrived in the U.S. on Sept 20th. Four days later the patient presented at the hospital feeling ill, was evaluated, and then sent home with antibiotics. This, despite apparently making explicitly clear to the ER staff he had recently traveled from W. Africa.
After growing progressively more ill, the patient was transported via ambulance back Presbyterian Hospital on Sept. 28 displaying symptoms consistent with Ebola. AlertsUSA sources close to the hospital indicate the symptoms included fever, nausea and bloody stools.
CDC WITHELD FLIGHT DETAILS, EVENTUALLY LEAKED
Washington, DC news station WJLA reports that while the CDC notified United Airlines which carried the infected traveler from Dulles to Dallas, the federal health agency abandoned its normal policy of informing fellow passengers. The CDC maintained that other passengers on the flights were at no risk of infection and refused to release the flight information.
On Wednesday those flight details were leaked by an anonymous United Airlines employee to the conservative blog Gotnews.com. Soon afterwards, United Airline corporate began tracking down passengers, notifying them of the situation and supplying contact information for the CDC.
As of the time of this reports' preparation, Dallas County's Department of Health and Human Services officials say that as many as 100 people may have had contact with the infected individual, with 50 being closely monitored for signs of infection.
CHILDREN EXPOSED, ATTENDED SCHOOL
Dallas Independent School District also revealed that five children from four of the district's schools were also possibly exposed to the virus while the infected individual was sick, but before he was admitted to the hospital. Not knowing the severity of the situation, those children attended school as normal before being remanded to their homes.
As all parents are aware, schools are veritable petri dishes where sickness spreads quickly. As of the time of this report's preparation on Friday, attendance at the affected schools is off approximately 12 percent as an increasing number of parents keep their children home.
Further still, four sheriff's deputies, a local health official and a doctor who went into the family apartment without protection on Wednesday have also been quarantined, along with the EMTs who transported the infected individual to the hospital.
POTENTIAL TO BECOME AIRBORNE
Early this week the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Ebola, Anthony Banbury, warned that the longer the Ebola epidemic continues infecting people unabated, the higher the chances it will mutate and become airborne. Similar warnings have been previously been made by numerous notable scientists (see this and this.)
CONFLICTING GOVERNMENT INFORAMTION
AlertsUSA again cautions readers to carefully evaluate the conflicting information being put forth by public health and government officials.
CDC: RISK OF EXPOSURE WITHIN 3 FEET
While the message is being broadly trumpeted that Ebola can only be contracted by direct contact with infected individuals or their bodily fluids, according to Dr. Barbara Knust of the CDC, there is risk of exposure through casual contact, which she defines as being within 3 FEET of a patient for a prolonged period of time.
WORD GAMES? Aerosolized vs. Airborne
AlertsUSA contends that public health officials intentionally walk a fine line and carefully craft language when attempting to minimize public concerns regarding transmissibility of Ebola. Though public health authorities and government officials publicly state that Ebola is not airborne, there are a multitude of published, peer reviewed studies firmly establishing transmission of the Ebola virus via aerosols. The general difference between airborne and aerosol transmission rests, in large part, on the size of the particles and thus, how long they can remain suspended in the air.
Jaax N, Jahrling P, Geisbert T, Geisbert J, Steele K, McKee K, Nagley D, Johnson E, Jaax G, Peters C., Transmission of Ebola virus (Zaire strain) to uninfected control monkeys in a biocontainment laboratory, Lancet. 1995 Dec 23-30;346(8991-8992):1669-71.
In 2006 the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), published a report specifically stating that Ebola is infectious by aerosol.
Also in 2006, PLoS Pathogens carried a peer reviewed paper stating "...the pathogen is extremely deadly and highly infectious by aerosol..."
|Warfield, K., Swenson, D., Olinger, G., Nichols, D., Pratt W., Blouch, R., Stein, D., Aman, J., Iversen, P., Bavari, S., Gene-specific countermeasures against Ebola virus based on antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, PLoS Pathogens, Jan. 13, 2006, DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.0020001
(Backup Copy Here
Just last month the highly respected Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota published a report urging healthcare workers to employ advanced personal protective equipment because of the threat of aerosol transmission of Ebola Zaire:
"We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks."
There are many more.
THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY, 3600+ TROOPS TO DEPLOY
Readers are reminded the US government classifies Ebola as a Category A biological and potential bioterrorism agent, meaning it is one of the most lethal viral agents know to exist and which poses a risk to national security. So serious is the threat that President Obama has ordered the deployment of more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers to various W. African nations to assist health workers in combating the outbreak.
Just this week, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had authorized the deployment of 700 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division headquarters element to Liberia to help with the Ebola epidemic. While the general mainstream narrative is that all of the soldiers will be used to help construct emergency hospitals, the reality is that many of these soldiers will be used to help maintain security in the impacted areas as social structures continue to break down.
According to the World Health Organization, as of October 1, 2014 there are now more than 7100 Ebola cases and 3338 deaths, with WHO openly admitting that actual case numbers and deaths are much much higher. Further, WHO states that transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there are few signs that the EVD epidemic in West Africa is being brought under control.
TIME TO PREPARE - WHY TAKE A CHANCE?
Given the deadly nature of the Ebola virus, the exponentially increasing case numbers, the recent CDC projections of a possible 1.4 million cases by late January and the recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General report saying that DHS is "ill prepared" for a nationwide pandemic, this should be your clue that it might be time to take some preparedness steps of your own. If nothing happens here in the United States, GREAT! On the other hand, if Ebola cases do begin appearing in the U.S. in greater numbers, preparedness efforts will be significantly more challenging, if not impossible, because key items will be unobtainable.
FLU SEASON AND EBOLA - THE PERFECT STORM
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.
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.
As such, your increased, polite vigilance can only be a benefit to your overall safety.
AND RISK MITIGATION
While it is impossible for anyone to be fully prepared for each and every type of emergency, it IS possible to mitigate your risk in specific, known threat environments. This is the case with the threat of Ebola.
AlertsUSA has established an Ebola preparedness website offing specific guidance and information on how to prepare for and respond to a domestic outbreak of Ebola. http://www.EbolaReady.com .
Many of the preparedness suggestions on this page reflect common sense. Others will come across as cold and severe until it is remembered that Ebola is a highly infectious and deadly pathogen. More than half of those who become infected die and that death is particularly gruesome.
In addition, we make product suggestions on the site with links to a multitude of suppliers via Amazon as they are convenient and inexpensive compared to most retail outlets. That said, if you can find these products elsewhere at a better price, by all means exercise those options. The links are there for your convenience.
For 9 of the past 10 weeks, AlertsUSA and Threat Journal have been warning of the progression of the West Africa Ebola outbreak and the danger posed to the continental United States (See 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 ). A wealth of information is available within those past issues.
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