The world is in the midst of it’s largest ever Ebola outbreak. The first ever transmisson of Ebola within the United States was just confirmed this week. Two days later there was another confirmed transmission within the US and who knows how many people were infected before they sought treatment for symptoms. As of this writing, the CDC is saying two airline flights were potentially at risk, as would be anyone who came in contact with either nurse in the early symptomatic stages of the disease.
So what do we do? How do we prepare in case the worst happens?
First, let’s talk a bit about how Ebola currently spreads. (It is not yet airborne. We would know if it were simply by the number of victims and how quickly it spreads. But it could always mutate, so we’ll talk about airborne pandemics in a moment.)
Ebola, including this current virulent strain, is transmitted through body fluid contact. (Or contact or consumption of infected animals, but I don’t feel that’ something the average reader is at risk of, so we’ll skip over that.) The Ebola virus is found in blood, vomit, sweat, urine, saliva, semen, breastmilk…basically any bodily fluid you can think of is suspect. This fluid then needs to come into direct contact with mucous membranes or broken skin. In other words, the eyes, mouth, nose, an open wound, and so forth. Ebola is apparently only contagious when symptoms are present.
So how do you avoid getting Ebola? Short of going into town in full-on CDC-issued protective gear, there are no guarantees. But if this thing becomes more wide-spread, you might want these supplies on hand:
1. N95 respirator masks. These masks are medical grade and should help protect the mouth and nose from exposure. (It should be noted that masks are better suited to protect others from whatever nasty bugs you’ve got, but it certainly can’t hurt.) If you don’t have medical masks or are caught around someone you feel might be ill, any protection over your mouth and nose is better than none. So go cowbow style with a bandana or at the very least lift your shirt up over your mouth and nose.
2. Exam gloves. While these won’t cover a mucous membrane, tiny cuts around the nails especially often go unnoticed. Better to be safe. Plus gloves are easier to clean and disinfect (just take them off and dispose of them carefully) and the visual reminder to not touch your face is an added bonus. Be sure to get various sizes to accommodate all family members. I prefer latex-free so I don’t have to worry about any latex allergies.
3. Goggles. Like the medical masks, these aren’t a guarantee, but they do offer protection against fluid sprays from getting in your eyes. Again, if you don’t have goggles, any eye protection is better than none. Safety glasses, sunglasses, even swimming goggles or snorkeling masks are better than nothing in a pinch.
4. Medical-grade disinfectant, bleach, and antibacterial soap. If you come into contact with someone you suspect may have Ebola or another infectious disease, bleach, disinfectants, and antibacterial soaps are your last line of defense.
This is a very basic list meant to help with prioritizing needs.
Once you get the basics taken care of, you can always get fancy with Tyvek suits (meant for dry applications like drywall dust, but it’s more protective than regular clothing–just be sure to get the appropriate sizes). You should also have supplies for quarantining sick family members like plastic dropcloths and duct tape. And, as always, you should have enough food and water for your family to stay home if the threat heightens.
As for if or when this disease becomes airborne? My advice is to stay home. Very little gear the average prepper can get his hands on could protect us from an airborne version of this disease. So just stay home. Make sure you have what you need now to stay put for at least a couple months, if not longer. Water, food, medications, pet food…anything you might need when you hunker down. Get it now.