"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
September 10, 2014
Ebola: Pandemic in the Making?
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst hit by West Africa's Ebola outbreak, has announced a three-day lockdown to try to tackle the disease. From September 19-21, no one will be allowed to leave their homes. The goal is to allow health workers to isolate new cases, which will help prevent the disease from spreading further.

The current Ebola outbreak has killed about 2,100 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.

What is Ebola?

  • Animals and bats found mostly in Africa, are considered to be virus's natural hosts.

  • It is spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva. This makes contracting Ebola more difficult, a good thing, as it is not transmitted through the air in the form of coughing or sneezing.

  • Incubation period is two to 21 days, which is the reason it is spreading. A person infected becomes contagious before the symptoms appear from 2 to 21 days. A survivor can remains contagious for more than 60 days after symptoms disappear.

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting and central nervous system damage.

  • Fatality rate can reach 90% — but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%

  • There is no proven vaccine or cure although the World Health Organization is testing a vaccine now and hopes to have the trials complete by November.

  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhea and vomiting can help recovery.

And now there is Enterovirus — EV-D68. The Enterovirus is uncommon, but not new. It was first identified in the 1960s and there have been fewer than 100 reported cases since that time, but EV-D68 is hard to diagnose, which may be the reason for the low numbers.

Over the years, clusters have been reported in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and various countries including the Philippines, Japan and the Netherlands. This year there have been more than 600 hospitalizations in several Midwestern states.

Do you recall the pandemic of 2009? Worldwide it is estimated that 579,000 people died. We most often associate a pandemic with a strain of the flu, but the definition is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. 

Since we rarely hear about pandemics in the media before they occur, it is time to do what those who are self-reliant always do: we research and prepare ourselves. Pandemics don’t care if it’s summer vacation, Christmas or spring break: they come uninvited.

6 Important Decisions to Make Now

There are valuable lessons learned from past pandemics. One thing we know is that they spread very rapidly. This will leave us little or no time to prepare once a pandemic outbreak has been confirmed. Because of this, there are decisions to be made right now.

1. Determine who among you is at greatest risk of illness during a pandemic. These are the people you may need to emphasize in your preparation, as they may not be able to plan for and care for themselves. According to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this would include:

  • The economically disadvantaged (having little or no money to stockpile food and supplies),

  • Those without a social network (many children, the homeless, those geographically separated from family — including transient workers and elderly),

  • Dependent individuals needing support for daily activities (physically disabled, developmentally disabled, mental illness, substance abuse or addiction, difficulty seeing or hearing, and other medical conditions),

  • Those with trouble reading, speaking or understanding English. 

2. Determine which room in your home will act as the isolation room, or room where those who are ill will be cared for, in the case of a flu pandemic, the most common pandemics. In the case of Ebola hospitalization is necessary and patients cannot be treated at home.

Whenever possible this should be a room with its own bathroom facilities. If you have a bedroom that is separated from other bedrooms in the home, this would be a good choice.

When possible, this room should also include a TV with DVD player. Those who are ill will need a diversion to keep their minds occupied as they recover. This room should also be large enough to set up an additional bed. 

3. Stockpile food and medications. We need to have a three-month supply of the foods we eat on a regular basis. During a pandemic there will be a great deal of stress in a home where people are ill. Be sure you have comfort foods in your storage as keeping a positive attitude is an important aspect of physical well being and healing, and nothing does that better than a brownie.

While you are at it, your storage should include enough for others beyond your normal household, if possible. 

It is important to store over-the-counter drugs for fever, muscle ache, nausea, diarrhea, and sore throat pain. Be sure to store both adult and children's varieties of these medications. Remember, aspirin should not be given to children without consultation with your physician.

Be sure to have a supply of all prescription drugs required by every family member. Consult your doctor and/or pharmacy on how to do this. As you help to prepare those in the high risk group, be sure to help them to legally accumulate these supplies as well. 

In the case of an Ebola outbreak you may be asked to quarantine or you may just decide not to risk contact and self-quarantine. In this case remember that a family member may get the flu or a cold or headaches and you need medications of that type on hand even if your home is not the victim of Ebola.

4. Discuss pandemics as a family. Remember the insecurities children and many adults felt after 9/11? Informing your family and others you will care for about pandemics will greatly reduce the fear when it finally hits.

There is a great comic book prepared by King County, Washington which can be downloaded and used as an educational tool. Copy this tool and prepare a lesson now and as soon as you hear a declaration that a pandemic has been declared share the information you’re your family. www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices 

When a flu pandemic is announced discuss exactly what your new family routine will include. Walk through your isolation room and talk about how you will care for a patient. 

5. Complete a basic medical record for each person in the family, and any others you will care for. Do this now as it is a valuable resource during any emergency and should be in every 72 hour kit. 

6. Designate a primary caregiver and a second if the first should become ill. This should be a person who is familiar with patient care, hopefully a person who has a strong immune system. 


Once a pandemic has been confirmed, it is time to consider self-quarantine (you may want to do so even before local officials get around to imposing measures, in case they are unprepared to do so). Immediately pick up others you will be caring for and bring them to your home.

As we have learned from past pandemics communities and families who self quarantined survived at a much, much, greater rate than those who did not.

Now that you have quarantined your family it is the time to settle into a new routine. Designate times for watching TV, doing homework, crafts, reading, meal preparation, chores and playing games. If you assume all of this will just happen, then you will watch all the DVDs you own in the first week and discover you still have weeks of isolation left to fill with activities.

If you live on an acre or more, you will want to include time outside for children to play each day, within bounds of course. Exercise will be important to maintaining good health. 

If you are planning to purchase games, books, craft project, science experiments or movies for Christmas of birthdays purchase them now and you will have some fun surprises when the family gets bored and restless during a quarantine.

Ebola may be confined to the African continent or it may spread. No one knows and extreme measures are being taken to prevent the spread. Enterovirus may be contained or it may spread.

If a pandemic of any kind should occur, are you prepared? The pandemic of 2009 was small. Only 579,000 died — yes, that’s small. The Pandemic of 1918 however, killed 500 million people or one third of the world population at the time.

We know another pandemic is coming. Whether it be a flu, Enterovirus or Ebola pandemic, we don’t know. We know an earthquake is coming to San Francisco, Seattle and Salt Lake, so we prepare even though we don’t know when. The specifics or preparation are different, but both require planning ahead on our part.

A critical part of pandemic preparation is food storage. Visit Carolyn’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TotallyReady each Monday for the food storage challenge of the week.

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About Carolyn Nicolaysen

Carolyn Nicolaysen grew up in New Jersey and joined the Church while attending Central College in Pella, Iowa. With a degree in Home Economics, she later worked as a high school teacher, and served as an elected trustee of her local school board. Carolyn has taught personal and family preparedness to all who will listen. Having lived in areas that were threatened by winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now living in an earthquake prone area, she has developed a passion for preparedness. Carolyn started her own business, TotallyReady, when she saw the need for higher quality emergency information that could truly sustain families in a disaster.

Carolyn is FEMA trained and is an Amateur Radio first responder. She serves as Relief Society president of her California ward.

Carolyn is the author of three ebooks, Mother Hubbard, What She's Doing Now (food storage for the 21st century), Prep Not Panic (preparing for a pandemic of medical emergency) and That Won't Happen to Me (a discussion of disaster preparations). She has also authored a glove box book, Totally Ready for the Road and writes a monthly newsletter and the Totally Ready facebook page.

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