It is important to understand that the Ebola virus is still active. The outbreak that happened in 2014 was brought under control, but the virus hasn’t been eradicated. Plus, when it broke out in 2014, it came dangerously close to home for many people across the globe, with a handful of cases popping up in the U.S. and other parts of the world, simply because people with the disease got through the travel checkpoints and got on a plane. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you know how to protect yourself from Ebola. We will begin with a look at Ebola, what it is and how you can get it.
Ebola is a disease that is carried and passed to humans by fruit bats in the Pteropodidae family. The disease can affect humans and other primates, such as chimpanzees. How do you get Ebola disease? Essentially, it is spread via bodily fluids. Here are some key Ebola facts:
- It is a form of hemorrhagic fever.
- It is initially transmitted to a human from the host animal (the fruit bat).
- It has an average mortality rate of 50%.
- The 2014 outbreak was the largest Ebola outbreak in history and the first one to involve urban centers.
- It is critical to have community engagement to help control outbreaks of the disease.
- Early care is critical for survival, particularly the treatment of symptoms and maintaining hydration.
- There are no official Ebola vaccines, but there are two currently being tested.
Get/Make a Pandemic Kit
A pandemic kit is a special kit that is designed to ensure you have everything you need to ride out a pandemic and stay as safe as possible. In a basic pandemic kit, you should have the following:
- At least an N100 mask
- Medical gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Strong disinfectant for surfaces
- Hazmat suit or disposable gown
- Antibacterial wipes
You should also keep other supplies on hand, including:
- Strong garbage bags
- Vomit bags
- Biohazard bags
- Disposable thermometers
- Electrolyte solution
- Medicines, such as fever and pain medication, anti-diarrheal, and cough medicine
- Extra food and water (you will need more when waiting out a pandemic)
This list is, of course, in addition to your regular preps. If you need help knowing what you should have in your general preps, then check out this article.
Make No Assumptions
Regardless of what the authorities are saying, you cannot make assumptions when it comes to the spread of Ebola. It has been said that it is a mere plane ride away and that is always the case whenever there is an outbreak. If you know there is an outbreak of Ebola somewhere in the world, prepare for the possibility that it will reach your city or town, especially if you live in a major city or travel hub. If it has reached somewhere near where you live and you are told it has been contained, don’t assume they are right. By the time you find out they were wrong, it will likely be too late.
You should also never make assumptions when someone has potentially been exposed or is sick. Medical experts give advice on a disease based on the limited knowledge they have. They have criteria by which they can tell if someone is contagious, but it is best not to assume those criteria are accurate. If you suspect someone has been exposed, stay away. Even though the virus is passed only through bodily fluids, there is a chance that moisture droplets from a sneeze or cough could infect you if you are close enough to the sick person.
If you have someone close to you that is sick and experiencing Ebola-like symptoms, you need to treat them as if they have it. To do this, you absolutely must know what the symptoms of Ebola are. Symptoms, as provided by the CDC, include:
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms can begin anytime between 2 and 21 days after exposure, with an average of 8 to 10 days.
If the Ebola virus has reached the city or town in which you live, you need to get serious about your protection and the protection of your family. Everyone will have their own comfort level when it comes to withdrawing from society and people can’t just call into work and say they aren’t coming in because a case of Ebola showed up in their town, but there will be a point that you will say, “Hey, that’s enough.” If the outbreak gets bad enough, the authorities will tell all non-essential personnel to stay home, but chances are you want to stay home long before they give that order.
If you are going to avoid contact with people, then there is a golden rule that needs to be followed:
- No one in and no one out. This is the primary rule. If your home is free of Ebola, then it will stay that way if no one brings it into the house.
However, if you do have to leave your home for any reason, then the following rules apply:
- Wear protective gear at all times, including medical gloves and a face mask or shield.
- Don’t touch anything anyone else has touched and don’t touch people, not even to shake hands.
- Wash your hands frequently if for some reason you are without gloves.
- Take probiotics.
- Do not touch your face.
If You Suspect a Family Member
If you have a family member that might have been exposed to Ebola, then that person must be isolated from everyone else. You should have a room set up as an isolation room, preferably with its own bathroom, and if not, then with washroom facilities set up in the room. Keep the suspect family member isolated for the entire incubation period. If they get sick, then call the authorities and have a medical team come and get the family member to take them to the hospital or treatment facility.
If for some reason you cannot have your sick family member taken to get proper medical treatment and you have to help that person, then you must do the following:
- Limit exposure as much as possible.
- Wear full protective gear when with the person (see below).
- Be extremely careful when handling any bodily waste.
- Seal off the room as best you can with plastic sheeting, duct tape, and heavy tarps.
- Ensure the sick person uses only disposable utensils and dishes.
- Dispose of everything that has been in contact with the sick person by burning it immediately, including clothing and bedding.
Full protective gear must be worn at all times when treating someone during their illness. This includes:
- Medical gloves
- Facemask and shield
- Eye protection
- Medical gown or hazmat suit
- Disposable hair and shoe covers
Wear all of these protective items even if you aren’t sure the sick person has Ebola. You do not want to take any chances.
Ensure Proper Cleaning
Everything in your home that might be contaminated should be washed thoroughly with a bleach solution (although, keep in mind this wouldn’t be the case if you follow the primary rule or no one in, no one out). This is a solution that is 1:100 of bleach to water and can be used to clean all surfaces, equipment, and bedding and clothing prior to being laundered. If you need to clean something more dangerous than these items, such as human waste or dead bodies, then a solution of 1:10 should be used.
Keeping People Away
When you have hunkered down in your home to weather out the Ebola storm, you want to be sure people stay away. In general, if the outbreak isn’t bad and someone comes to your door and you don’t answer it, they will go away. But there are two scenarios that might happen and for which you should be prepared.
Family, Friends, Neighbors Show Up
If a family member, friend, or neighbor shows up at your door wanting to shelter with you, you need to make a decision. Is this person important enough to you to allow them to stay? In most cases, the answer is no and you will have to be firm when you turn that person away. However, if this is a person who is very important to you, then they will have to go through a quarantine period before they are allowed into the house.
The best case scenario is that you set up your garage or shed as a quarantine zone. The quarantine period for Ebola is 21 days, after which a person can be declared uninfected. You can only do this if you have a safe area that can be used as a quarantine zone. Never let anyone into your house that you cannot guarantee is Ebola-free.
People Trying to Get In
This is a scenario that might not happen unless things get really bad, but if there are desperate people out there that want in with you or to take what you have, then you need to keep them away. One great way to do this is to deter them by making them think that your home has already been infected. You can do this by using any combination of the following tricks:
- Use red spray paint to mark the doors on your house with the symbol being used by the authorities to mark infected homes.
- Set out biohazard bags filled with miscellaneous items to make people think someone inside is sick.
- Dig up the ground in your yard to make it look as though you have freshly buried someone there.
Someone would have to be pretty desperate to try to enter a house that looks obviously infected and that means you and your family will remain safe while chaos erupts outside.
Remember that when it comes to Ebola, or any other pandemic illness, the only 100% sure-fire way to avoid the disease is to avoid people. The only way to keep it out of your home is to not allow anyone into or out of your home. You will ideally want to wait the entire incubation period from the last reported case in your area before opening your doors to the world once again. Please take care in any potential pandemic situation.