Posts Tagged ‘preparedness’

Hello, hello, my internet fellows!

Apologies for the short delay. This has been an eventful week for me to say the least, which I will.

There are larger issues at play this week than my shenanigans. As most of you may already know, Mali had a big spot in the news this week. As of this week Mali is officially the newest country to have reported a case of Ebola. A two year old girl was diagnosed with the disease after entering the country through Guinea with some family who have since been quarantined. She has since passed. Unfortunately at least one of the girl’s parents had already died from the virus when she left Guinea, which shares it’s largest border with Mali. The girl was noted to have had a nosebleed for the duration of their bus ride, which stopped in multiple cities along its route. No other travelers have been found with symptoms so far, but the government is still trying to track down everyone who she may have come into contact with along her trip to be sure. The Guinean-Malian border is fairly open, which is a large concern for Malians, but thankfully Ebola isn’t the most contagious of diseases.

According to the World Health Organization Fact Sheet on Ebola, the Ebola Virus Disease is only contagious when people are showing symptoms of sickness. Symptoms begin 2 to 21 days after contracting the virus. Transmission happens through direct contact with the fluids of someone exhibiting symptoms. According to the WHO, “first symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.” In early stages transmission through fluids could mean the sweat of someone fevering, however generally it is not easily transmissible unless fluids come into contact with “broken skin or mucous membranes,” like armpits or tear ducts, though hang nails and small cuts on the hands are something to watch out for and maintain. So shaking an infected person’s sweaty hand does not automatically condemn you; it is still a good idea, and definitely worth it to wash your hands if you think you might have.

The major issue with how this outbreak has been handled is brought to light in Mali’s particular situation. Most people who have been paying attention to the outbreak know not to touch people who are showing severe symptoms like bleeding from the eyes or vomiting in the street, but one question of real importance seems to be consistently overlooked; what counts as the beginning? Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that even the first signs of sweat from someone feeling feverish, or the saliva from a cough could contain traces of Ebola. This is why the virus is confused with one that could be transmissible through the air. The Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air, but it can be transmitted through droplets of mucus or saliva traveling through the air, making a bus ride with an infected person potentially dangerous if they are coughing or sneezing into the open. This method of transmission has only been found between pigs and monkeys so far, and in experimental conditions however, so needless to say it is not the easiest route for the disease to take. So the verdict stands; carriers are infections from the moment they begin excreting fluids as a result of the virus. This issue poses an unfortunate and controversial problem for people when you throw another element into the mix: children.

We want to comfort and take care of our children when they are sick, but in cases where Ebola may be the reality of the situation, such care may have to be given from a distance. No one wants to think about, let alone discuss the possibility of separating oneself from their sick child. Most parents are commendably committed to staying as close as possible to make themselves available for whatever reason their child may need them, but with Ebola, children create a special highway on which to travel. This, the first and only reported case in Mali so far, as well as Patient Zero in Guinea were children. However in Senegal, one and only one case was reported because their Patient Zero was a 21 year old man whom did not spend his time in the constant care of others. Unfortunately this is such a barbaric virus that it turns our compassion into our fatal undoing.

Mali, as well as the rest of the world, might need to start clarifying a bit more about how Ebola can be transmitted outside of the health centers. Unfortunately Mali also has to deal with the issue of ensuring procedure is correctly followed within those centers, but thankfully Mali’s health services in major cities are generally pretty competent. Once confirming this case was in fact Ebola there was swift action taken to track down and disinfect the bus, as well as find any who may have made contact with the child. It is the culture of the populous that concerns me most at the moment. Health officials have suspected the virus existed in Mali for some time, but the overwhelming desire to hide infection and simply ride it out at home poses some of the greatest risks for transmission. Cases can’t be reported when people don’t come forward. That being said, Mali needs to get it’s story straight and try to send out a more consistent set of information to its citizens. They’ve been giving it a good effort; I’ve seen the PSA’s on TV. The dissemination of information here needs to be wider-reaching and more comprehensive though, especially if they really want to cut this virus off in its path and hope to contain it along the towns and villages bordering Guinea.

In addition, not much information has been circulating concerning post-recovery procedures for those who are lucky enough to survive infection. Once again, as the WHO has so eloquently put it, “People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.” Bummer, man.

At the end of the day, what can the average person do? The answer is obvious and not isolated to this Ebola outbreak. Wash your hands whenever you get a chance. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and don’t touch other peoples’ dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been BLEEDING FROM THEIR EYES. No, but seriously. If you do find yourself in a vulnerable position in relation to this outbreak, practicing basic, common-sense hygiene may be your best defence against contracting the virus. If not, wash your hands anyway. Remember, even soap is a privilege many do not enjoy.

I hope this clarified some things. Until next time, be safe people. Onward and upward.

-Z

So here I am, once again sitting on a piece of flying metal 40,000 feet above the Atlantic.  This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in such a place, but this time there is a marked difference than every other.  This time, there is no return flight.  This much is still sinking in, and I’m sure will be for a while. I am excited beyond words for what lies ahead.  To get into how I feel would take way more effort and words than anybody has time for, so in a word I’ll say I am overwhelmed.  I’ve decided to focus on the present, and simply try to be aware of this moment as much and for as long as possible in order to keep my head on my shoulders at the moment.  The exception being this post of course. However, in order to appreciate the present we must first, of course, begin with the past.  Warning: this might be a long one.

When I was younger, I – like most – was a huge space cadet.  My head was constantly in the clouds. I would frolic and prance and play all day, often leaving every last gadget and toy just about anywhere but where I had gotten it.  My life would have been in a state of constant chaos had it not been for my saint of a mother who ran that house like it was her kingdom, which it was.  My father worked for an international non-profit so he jumped around the world as often as most go to the movies.  Even when he was working at his office in DC, he would get up before us kids most days and come home after dinner most nights anyway, which meant mom ran the house.  It’s a classic storyline but everyday dad went to his office to work and mom got to work right there at home, and let me tell you – she was relentless.  Picking up toys, picking up laundry, picking up sticks, weeding, cooking, sweeping, washing clothes, washing dishes, washing windows, I’m pretty sure I saw her sweep the driveway once.  Of course she couldn’t keep the place spotless all the time – though I know that’s what she was aiming for – but damn if she didn’t try.  Now that’s not to say that she was the only one maintaining the house, but even when all our chores were done she would still be there, running around like a track star.  Once I found myself living in a single dorm in college I started to see why she was so seemingly obsessed with a spotless home.  My method was insane, not hers.  Although I hate to admit it, as I ran around the house ripping siding off of appliances to turn into air guitars and throwing them behind the couch, I spent the rest of my time looking for whatever it was I wanted to use next.  Now that I’m older I still lose things constantly, but thankfully my mother’s words still ring in my head whenever I am at a loss (probably because she still says them).  For every time she found something I was missing she would look at me with that cocked eyebrow, hand my toy back slowly and say, “next time, why don’t you try looking with your eyes open.”  She may have been teasing me all those years, but her advice couldn’t be applicable to everyday life.

Have you ever ended up at work and forgot the ride there?  Most people, and I am just as guilty as any, spend their days in a daze (pun intended).  We drag our feet to work as we daydream of sleep, then push off sleep for fear of work-induced nightmares.  The moments around us slip between our fingers while we check Facebook for event invites.  This didn’t start with Facebook or the internet though.  The danger only lies in how much easier it has become to lose touch with the only real thing we’ll ever know: the six inches in front of our face.

There are different levels of awareness.  Imagine driving a car.  Slowing down to a stoplight, you keep an eye out for anyone quickly switching lanes or stopping.  If you zone out and something catches you by surprise, it is easy to become a deer in the headlights.  However just by paying attention to your surroundings when everyone begins to slow down gives you that extra moment to hit the breaks or swerve to avoid an accident.  The same goes for walking on a dark road.  Simply being aware of any people around you could give you enough time to run or defend yourself instead of being caught in that surprised state.  Considering my current move to Mali where I will live in a big, wild, African city, this is what concerns me most.  I know I will have to keep my eyes and ears open to a degree I am unfamiliar with if I want to survive.  Threats are real.  Danger is out there.  There are still things that go bump in the night.  As a wise woman once told me, we all think things happen to somebody else but we are all somebody else to somebody else.

In the United States people are disillusioned by the distractions that come with living in a developed country.  We’ve got smooth roads, clean water, and standardized vaccinations that allow us as citizens to forget that outside our fences and ports, the brutality of nature still exists.  Death, disease, and destruction are all alive and well.  We hear about human rights violations like they are fairy tales because no country in their right mind would attack the U.S. on its own soil.  So when news reports surface about police brutality within our own borders, we blame the people, or claim the atrocities are isolated because no one wants to consider the ugly possibility that we might not always be the good guys.  The term “news” in the States has become synonymous with entertainment.  In fact, “news” stations hold not legal obligation to inform or educate their viewers at all.  Their only responsibilities are to entertain and generate profits.  To those for whom the life-threatening realities of everyday life have been taken care of, the true brutality of the world is nothing more than background noise at the dinner table.  This has always been a problem with those living in the castle, so-to-speak.  However it is one that is easily fixed by simply understanding your own place in the environment you find yourself.  Even if things seem fine where you are, remember those walls around you do not separate you from the world.  Only your mind can do that.

So take a second.  Stop inviting walls into wide open spaces, as the poet Buddy Wakefield would say, and be aware.  Be aware, not only of the world you live in, but the place you hold in that world.  Really open your eyes.  Where are you?  Who is around you?  Do they seem agitated?  What does the air smell like?  Where is the nearest toilet, or water source?  Might be the same place!  Come back to where you are.  Be here, now.  Be aware.  Try looking with your eyes open.  You never know what’s coming around the bend.

Until next time, onward and upward.
-Z

P.s. Food for thought:
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/practical-guide-situational-awareness