Earlier this week, the UN issued a statement on the Ebola crisis that should set off alarms in every household in America.
In his briefing, Mr. Banbury told the 15-nation UN Security Council that he is “deeply worried” that the steps implemented by the international community were “not nearly enough” to halt the advance of the fatal disease.
“Ebola got a head start on us,” he said.
“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race. We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Mr. Banbury told the council on Tuesday via video link from the operation’s headquarters in Ghana.
Mr. Banbury recalled the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that, within 60 days of October 1, 70 per cent of all those infected must be in the hospital and 70 per cent of the victims safely buried, to arrest the outbreak.
“This is what we are fighting for now; we are fighting to prevent unavoidable deaths. We are fighting for people who are alive and healthy today, but will become infected and die if we do not put in place the necessary emergency response.”
In its most recent situation report on the disease, WHO, which is leading the wider UN response, reported 8,376 cases and 4,024 deaths from Ebola based on information provided by the Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The agency notes that the upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and also in Liberia. By contrast, the situation in Guinea appears to be more stable but a pattern of transmission is still of very grave concern.
“With every day that passes, the number of sick people increases,” Mr. Banbury added.
“Time is our biggest enemy. We must use every minute of every day to our advantage and that is what UNMEER is doing.”
In particular, Mr. Banbury called for an increase in the number of diagnostic laboratories, transport support and funding to help with operation logistics which would help aid the UN response to a crisis so vast in scope and magnitude.
Moreover, with the number of infected growing exponentially each day, he cautioned that UNMEER could expect new caseloads of approximately 10,000 people per week by December 1, meaning that 7,000 beds for treatment were needed.
The good news is that we know what has to be done to stop the virus in its tracks. The bad news is that we’re not even close to catching up because the international response to the crisis has been pathetic.
More than a million cases of Ebola by the end of January? Each passing day makes that scenario more likely and the spread of the disease worldwide a near certainty. Individual countries like the U.S. may initially be able to contain the outbreak, but what of our neighbors to the south?
Jonathan Last gives us “Six Reasons to Panic”:
And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?
Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”
Taking center stage for the foreseeable future will be a much-maligned group of citizens who call themselves “preppers.” They are portrayed as wild-eyed paranoids, or religious nuts, hiding in a cabin in the woods waiting for the Second Coming, or a race war, or an alien invasion.
In truth, they are normal citizens who have decided to take prudent, reasonable, logical precautions in case of natural disaster or a terrorist attack.
Or, in the case of Ebola, a pandemic that threatens the breakdown of civil society. That scenario is still very remote. But six months ago, the chances of such a breakdown were zero. What will the chances be six months from now?
For preppers, who find their ranks growing by the week as the Ebola crisis spreads, the bottom line is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
From the Daily Beast:
The website is run by Joe Alton, a retired OB-GYN and fellow at the American College of Surgeons, and his wife, Amy, a nurse. They’re the authors of The Survival Medicine Handbook, a guide for post-apocalyptic wellness.
On Thursday morning, Joe flew from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Texas—home to America’s three Ebola cases—to talk prepping on Glenn Beck’s television show. On his way there, he said he was more careful than usual, wiping down the plane’s seat armrests with bleach wipes for the first time ever, and scrubbing his hands with strong sanitizer half a dozen times.
There are some fanatics in what Alton calls the “preparedness community,” but when it comes to Ebola, he’s tempered, saying it’s unlikely the virus will hit communities in the U.S. much more widely.
But the benefit of a slow-moving virus like Ebola, Joe Alton says, is there will be a warning, just like a hurricane, and time to get ready. At home, the Altons have been outfitting a designated “sick room,” for the possibility of a family member coming down with something, most likely influenza, but perhaps Ebola. He chose a corner spare room with good ventilation, and put aside a spare set of sheets and silverware, just in case.
“There’s no harm for everyone in the general public to prepare for disaster,” he says. “We should plan that room out and designate which it’s going to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean if I visited your house it would look like an intensive-care unit.”
Right now, the ratio of preppers to regular Americans is dramatic: Joe cites 3 percent as the accepted number. A few months of Ebola fear could give the community a bump. “We’re not going to see millions of people in audition calls for [National Geographic Channel show] Doomsday Preppers, but I’m hoping 3 percent one day gets to 4 percent,” he says.
“As long as we’re prepared and have plan of action, we’re going to keep it together even if everything else falls apart.”
We’ve already seen signs of panic with only three cases in the U.S. What happens if there are several hundred infected people? With a combination of lack of faith in government pronouncements about the disease and scare mongers who will use the crisis to advance their own interests and agendas, it won’t take much to panic the entire nation.
Can you really prepare for that? It’s always a good idea to have extra food, batteries, potable water, and even weapons and ammunition. But we are creatures of civilization and without power, running water, and other accoutrements of civil society, few of us will have truly prepared to come face to face with civilization’s end.
Nevertheless, basic preparedness is a must. And if you haven’t thought about it before, it’s time to take the blinders off. Remote though the worst case scenario might be, your chances of survival are a lot better even with a little advance planning than if you didn’t plan at all.