Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The black plague was thought to have been introduced to Europe mostly through trade routes. If such a devastating plague could travel so far in the days of horses and sailing ships, imagine how fast disease can travel in the days of jet aircraft.
Hundreds of years ago many diseases were limited by geography. A disease like Ebola could not travel very far because it disabled and killed its victims too quickly. Lower population density also meant that there were just not as many people to liable to come in contact with each other.
Now we have high speed travel and high population density. On the other side of the equation is a much better knowledge of disease and better treatments. However, I am concerned with this most recent Ebola outbreak as medical workers appear to have a very high infection rate. To me that's a sign that the standard procedures are not working.
When that happens we are reduced to what worked in the Dark Ages: quarantine. Keep the sick people away from the healthy people. Sierra Leone is attempting a quarantine right now, but I would not have much faith in their attempt. The quarantined area is too porous. People come through, sometimes by stealth, sometimes by bribing soldiers. A quarantine that is only partial is no quarantine at all. Other African countries have also set up quarantine areas, with mixed results.
Various countries have cut off air travel to and from the affected areas. That's prudent. Airports have stepped up passenger health monitoring. Those who appear sick end up in an isolation ward -which is a fancy modern way of quarantining someone. The real fear is that the disease could spread to a modern densely populated city that's also a busy transportation hub. What if the disease spread to a place like India or China?
Now imagine that quarantine efforts fail. Worse yet, imagine that you are still healthy, but in an area that's under quarantine. People in the quarantined areas of Africa do not have enough outside support. Not only is medical help in short supply, basics like food and water are too.
The only thing to do is to somehow separate yourself from the general population. You would need enough supplies to survive for the duration. Somehow you'd also have to protect yourself from contact with other people. That's not very easy to do. Maybe you have a hidden cabin in the woods, a cave, or have barricaded yourself in an abandoned factory building.
It is something to take seriously. The epidemic is not under control. In the next few weeks expect to see a big jump in cases. That's when panic will set in. Don't be one of the panicked ones.