With Ebola in the news, there are some that have pointed out the possibility that some nations may attempt to weaponize the virus.
Biological warfare is the use of infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or their by-products to wreak death and havoc among a specific population. The user’s goal is to achieve control over an area or a segment of the population by weakening the ability to resist. Biological weapons don’t necessarily have to directly kill: unleashing a horde of locusts to destroy crops or agents that kill an area’s livestock can be just as effective.
EBOLA AS BIOLOGICAL WEAPON
The candidate in the news today is Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. The current strain of the virus in West Africa has a 55-60% death rate and is out of control in the epidemic areas. You would think that Ebola would, therefore, be an excellent choice as a biological weapon. It isn’t. Ebola virus is very sensitive to its environment and just doesn’t last long outside a host. It doesn’t tolerate sunlight and needs high temperature and humidity to survive. Most cities in developed countries don’t have the climate conducive to Ebola’s survival. It’s, also, not easy to work with. Even if a terrorist kidnapped an Ebola victim, working with the virus in anything less than an advanced microbiology lab (called a “Biosafety Level 4”) would likely result in the terrorist dying from the disease. As well, Ebola virus is too sensitive to survive the complex process of refining, enriching, etc. that is necessary for weaponization.
So don’t panic the next time you read about “Ebola Gas” or “Ebola Bombs”. Be aware of the virus, have supplies available that will help in a crisis, and use your most important survival tool: Your mind. Do you own research, get the facts, and come to your own conclusions.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Ebola virus is a highly contagious infectious disease. The first thing that you should do now, before the disaster has hit your area is to make a plan. This plan should involve:
1. Choosing an isolation room
2. Learning to identify symptoms of someone with Ebola (as described above)
3. Not cutting corners when it comes to washing and disinfecting (it probably has caused a lot of health workers their lives in West Africa)
4. Stockpiling food and medical supplies, including dedicated eating utensils, bedding, waste disposal materials, etc. for the sick.
5. Having a means of communication if the grid goes down (hand-cranked radios, etc.)
6. Considering safe ways to dispose of infected materials.
Picking an isolation room in your home is an important consideration, especially if you aren’t confident that medical help will be forthcoming. The room should be at one end of your domicile, have good light and a window for ventilation. You might, however, want to cover the air ducts in the room.
I recommend stocking up on masks, coveralls, eye protection, shoe covers, and gloves. Special masks called “N95″ and “N100″ are especially useful but a full body suit would be much more protective. (see list below)
A series of medications to serve as decongestants, fever reducers, and anti-diarrheal agents will be useful. It is especially important to have dedicated bedding and utensils for patient use only. Chlorine bleach is thought to kill Ebola, so have a good supply to disinfect countertops, doorknobs, and other surfaces.
If the epidemic has hit your area, you should be avoiding exposure to large groups of people. This is where some planning to store food and medical supplies will be very helpful. If you have food and other supplies stored in the house, it saves you multiple exposures and, perhaps, your life.
Here are some of the basic items you should have on hand, pandemic or not.
3M N95 Particulate & Respirator Mask: This is an inexpensive mask that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. They come in a box of 20 and are NIOSH-certified. The molded cone design is fluid and splash resistant and will greatly reduces your exposure to airborne particles.
Moldex 2730 N100 Respirator Mask: Do not confuse P100 masks with the N100s. N100 is what you want since the P100’s are used to filter particulate only and not gasses and vapors. For a smaller person, I suggest the Moldex 2731 which is the same mask in a size small.
3M TEKK Protection Chemical Splash/Impact Goggle: I purchased these based upon the reviews and am thrilled with both how they fit and how comfortable they feel. Highly recommended.
Dynarex Black Nitrile Exam Gloves, Heavy-Duty, Box/100: This brand is the #1 seller on Amazon.
Disposable Protective Coveralls: There are plenty to choose from and as with the gloves, better to be too large than to small.
The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way: By Joe and Amy Alton, this book will teach you how to deal with all the likely medical issues you will face in a disaster situation, and including strategies to keep your family healthy even in the worse scenarios. It covers skills such as performing a physical exam, transporting the injured patient, and even how to suture a wound. This medical reference belongs in every survival library.