Tag Archives: ebola


We can’t afford to let out of sight be out of mind.

To date, thousands of individuals have lost their lives to Ebola and the World Health Organization projects many more.While cases are currently in several countries including the United States, the major threat still remains in West Africa. There are too few resources available in these highly affected countries to prevent and treat this disease. It is critical that we are able to identify the signs and symptoms of Ebola and can more effectively prevent its transmission.

Started by Columbia Nursing students, Gloves 4 Gloves helps raise funds to purchase gloves to help prevent the spread of this deadly disease.

An Ounce of Prevention

More good news on the Ebola front: Texas nurse, Amber Vinson is free of the virus and has been release from the hospital. That leaves one remaining patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders volunteer, who was diagnosed in New York City last Thursday, October 23, after returning from Guinea.

Which means that all infected Americans have either caught the virus in West Africa, or while treating a patient who caught it in West Africa. But that doesn’t mean the best solution is to keep American doctors away from the danger zone. Dr. Bruce Ribner, Amber Vinson’s doctor at Emory University Hospital, believes the opposite is true.

The thing that we really have to keep in mind is that the only way that we are truly to be able to make our citizens safe is that we control the outbreak in Africa.

Dr. Bruce Ribner

And he’s not the only one. President Obama agrees.

Feature Friday: Ebola and Panic

I had another short film all lined up for today, but I just learned that Dallas nurse Nina Pham is finally free of Ebola 13 days after first testing positive for the virus. While she still has a lot of recovery to do before she begins to feel well again, this news is yet another sign that the end is not near (at least not by Ebola pandemic).

For more on the topic of Ebola-induced panic, I’ll leave you with friend, writer, rockstar, and fighter, Eugene Robinson. And yes, there’s a video in there. Enjoy.

This Week’s Apocalypse Update

There has been a lot of good news on the US Ebola front in the last 24 hours:

  • 51 potentially exposed people have been cleared after their 21-day monitoring was completed virus free
  • NBC’s freelance cameraman  Ashoka Mukpo and Spanish nurse’s aid Teresa Romero Ramos have been declared free of the Ebola virus
  • Dallas, Texas nurse, Nina Pham has bee upgraded from fair to good condition, and the second infected nurse, Amber Vinson continues to improve
  • Two potential Ebola vaccines are now in testing
  • The CDC has announced new guidelines for healthcare workers in contact with Ebola patients

In other Ebola news:

  • A Travel Alert has been issued for parts of Ebola-affected parts of West Africa
  • Travel restrictions have also been enacted for all travelers coming to the US from countries affected by Ebola–all will be routed through one of five airports with special screening capabilities: Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare, JFK, Newark, and Atlanta
  • More than 260 potentially exposed people remain under observation in the US, plus 16 in Spain

Here’s hoping that the trend continues and that we can soon move on to other topics.

Thinking About Pandemics

With Ebola all over the news these days, worries about pandemic are raising their ugly heads, despite the CDC’s assurance that the risk of spread in the US is low. Still, Ebola isn’t the only bug that can spread like wildfire. In 1918, the Spanish flu killed approximately 50 million people. Interestingly, the Spanish flu was a variation of the H1N1 virus, which reached pandemic status in 2009 when, according to the CDC, it infected between 43 and 89 million people (including me), hospitalized between 195 and 403 thousand, and killed somewhere between 14 and 18 thousand. But it doesn’t take a pandemic for a flu to be deadly. Globally, tens of thousands (often hundreds of thousands) of people die from the flu every year.

The precautions for avoiding the flu are well known:

Flu Prevention
© flu.gov

But what happens when a virus gets really out of control–or its an especially nasty bug? Belize has already implemented a travel ban for people who live in or have visited any of the Ebola-affected West African countries, and refused to allow a cruise ship carrying a Dallas hospital worker to dock, sending it back to the US.

There may come a point, either with Ebola (highly unlikely at this point), or with a particularly virulent strain of influenza (much more likely), when people in the affected areas may be asked to shelter in place, which basically means, stay in your homes and don’t go out for anything.

In order to do that successfully, you will need to prepare:

  • Have enough food and water for the duration, and since there’s no real way to know how long that might be, it’s best to store enough supplies for at least a month
  • You’ll also need stores of other essentials like toilet paper, toothpaste, tampons, and most importantly, medications; and don’t lull yourself into thinking you can just order from Amazon or your online pharmacy–you can, but no one will be able to deliver them
  • And don’t forget your pets, they’ll need to eat, go to the bathroom, and continue to take any essential meds, too
  • If you work in an office, look into ways you can work from home–loss of income during a lock-down is a very real threat that could have devastating effects
  • If you live in a place that experiences harsh winter weather and/or storms, you’ll want to prepare for that, too
  • You will also need a strategy to keep from going stir-crazy trapped in the house with your family, roommates, or heaven forbid, by yourself–luckily The Survival Mom, who is a fantastic source for all things prep, posted Shelter in Place Without Going Crazy–the first in a series to help you keep your sanity while stuck at home

The other thing to keep in mind, especially if you live alone, is that this advice doesn’t just help you survive a pandemic or any other disaster that requires sheltering in place. It can also make a huge difference if you get sick. Even with something as simple as a bad cold, it helps to have stores of broth, crackers, medicines, tea, etc. If you tend to get the flu every year, your minimum prep should include everything you need for however long you usually stay sick or the standard estimated days until full recovery, whichever is longer (standard for colds or flu is usually 4-14 days). And while you’re at it, a stockpile of movies or a streaming subscription probably wouldn’t hurt.

Ebola Number Crunching

With the Ebola virus all over the news these days, it can be hard not to think about it. I remember reading the book The Hot Zone when it first came out, and being surprised when the threat seemed to simply evaporate.

Since it has returned to the center of the global stage I find myself pondering the question “Why?” Looking at the history of Ebola outbreaks, a pattern emerges: A brief, intense period of activity followed by a period of no activity. Why does the virus seem to disappear for sometimes years at a time? What are the conditions or lack thereof that stop the spread of infection? And, can we identify and reproduce these conditions?

According to the CDC, that pattern looks something like this:

  • 1976-1979: First recorded case of Ebola virus in humans–638 infected in Zaire, Sudan,  and England (laboratory-infected)/454 deaths (71% mortality rate)
  • 1980-1994: No documented cases of Ebola in humans*
  • 1194-1997: Ebola resurfaces–468 infected in Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), South Africa (aid worker and nurse), and Russia (laboratory-infected)/349 deaths (75% mortality rate)
  • 1998-1999: No documented cases of Ebola in humans*
  • 2000-2004: Ebola resurfaces–743 infected in Uganda, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Sudan, Russia (laboratory-infected)/485 deaths (65% mortality rate)
  • 2005-2006: No documented cases of Ebola in humans*
  • 2007-2009: Ebola resurfaces–445 infected in Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda/239deaths (53% mortality rate)
  • 2010: No documented cases of Ebola in humans*
  • 2011: 1 infected in Uganda/1 death (100% mortality rate)
  • 2012-2013: 53 infected in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo/20 deaths (37% mortality rate)
  • 2014: ~4655 infected in outbreaks across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with limited travel-associated and/or localized infection  in Nigeria, Spain, USA, and Senegal/2431 deaths (52% mortality rate)

4 years active/15 years silent
4 years active/2 years silent
5 years active/2 years silent
3 years active/1 year silent
4 years (so far) active…

Perhaps we are due for another period of silence, soon.

A few things to note:

  • I do understand that the scope of this most recent outbreak–100 times greater than the mid-90s event that sparked the book The Hot Zone–is unlike anything we’ve seen in the past and that is likely to extend the active dates well beyond the previous pattern.
  • All of the numbers of infected and deaths are reported numbers only. Many additional cases may have occurred that were not tracked.
  • The CDC website tracks Ebola cases on an outbreak basis. I have combined both locations and numbers here to simplifying the math in my search for an over-arching trend. Looking at each outbreak and each location individually would yield different patterns.
  • I am not a researcher, a statistician, or any kind of health care professional, and all of my musings should be taken, at best, as conjecture. I am simply a curious onlooker playing with numbers and asking questions.

* Reston virus, a variant of Ebola found in animal populations in the Philippines, did occur  during otherwise Ebola-free years as follows:

  • 1989-1992: Outbreak in Philippine monkey populations–7 laboratory workers in the USA, Philippines, and Italy exposed, all developed antibodies but no symptoms
  • 1996:  Outbreak in Philippine monkey populations and virus identified in USA-based lab–0 human exposure
  • 2008: First known cases of virus in pigs–6 farm and slaughterhouse workers in the Philippines developed antibodies but no symptoms


4000+ Is Not Just a Statistic

This past week, Cuba sent the first 165 of 461 healthcare workers to  Sierra Leone, making them the single largest force against Ebola in west Africa.

It’s natural that people care more about what’s happening closer to their lives and realities. But I also think we all have a responsibility to not view what is not our immediate problem as a lesser problem. The fact that thousands of deaths in Africa are treated as a statistic, and that one or two patients inside our borders are reported in all their individual pain, should be cause for reflection.

Artist André Carrilho

Read more about Cuba’s long-stading history of providing disaster assistance and the artist’s controversial visual commentary on the Ebola crisis.

State of the Union

It can feel hard to know what to believe.

The truth is, even the scientists can’t say for sure what’s coming. But something is definitely coming. Some of it is already here. And whether you think it’s just a “cycle” or the end of days, there are things we can learn, things we can do, and ways we can get creative to help make this life, and change, a little easier.

Tomorrow, I’ll share one filmmaker’s post-apocalyptic vision and start brainstorming about avoiding or surviving that potential future.