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September 10, 2014
Totally Ready for Anything
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?

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:

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. 

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 each Monday for the food storage challenge of the week.

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