Catherine Hooper's Blog
Stopping Ebola
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 17:52

If you’re following the progression and escalation of the Ebola story, you may be suffering from a lack of confidence in the U.S. government response both at home and in West Africa.

The U.S. has seen - and somewhat mismanaged - it’s first case in Dallas; local Dallas moms are rushing to pull their kids out of schools where children may have come into contact with the U.S. patient. Meanwhile, major cities such NYC are preparing for potential cases and officials in Madrid, Spain are questioning how a nurse who was wearing full protective equipment contracted the virus.

Despite robust national preparedness and response protocols, the stories and reports about Ebola are overwhelmingly negative. We did come across one glimmer of hope in the media - Firestone’s success in Harbel, Liberia.

Firestone (yes, the tire company) manages a rubber plantation of 80,000 people in Harbel, several miles from the capital of Monrovia. The company detected their first Ebola case in late March; they promptly built a comprehensive treatment center and instituted quarantine for anyone who may have been exposed. The protective gear being used by doctors and nurses is makeshift - body suits, rubber gloves, agricultural sprayers - but it’s working. No health care workers have been infected and their patient ward is down to the final three cases.

While Firestone’s response is being driven by (and using the resources of) a major corporation, it still can serve as precedent for a grassroots model of Ebola response.

Emergency Radios
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 20:47

Lifehacker posted an article covering features to consider when selecting an emergency radio. They recommend sticking to the basics (a standalone AM/FM receiver), ensuring that the radio is able to receive NOAA alerts, picking a radio that offers Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME), which allows you to set emergency alerts for specific areas, and looking for radios that support multiple sources of power.

Three specific brands/models are recommended:

Black Umbrella is partial to the Etón FR160 Radio, which we include in all our Starter Kits.

DHS Unprepared for Pandemic
Friday, 26 September 2014 20:19

The Department of Homeland Security appears to be woefully unprepared for a pandemic, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans. The state of preparedness disarray seems to be a combination of mismanagement, ineptitude and apathy. Stockpiles of supplies, including personal protection equipment and anti-viral medication, are well past their expiry/usability dates.

White House Fence Jumper
Wednesday, 24 September 2014 20:49

A man breached White House security this past Friday after hopping the outer perimeter fence and running to the presidential mansion. The Washington Post is asking if this breach is a symptom of a larger problem at the Secret Service, where the uniformed division tasked with protecting the White House has been short-staffed. Despite a 90s era “red team” assessment that found the White House vulnerable to over-the-fence intrusions, budgetary concerns have led to a reduction in security staff.

The Mathematics of Ebola
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 20:53

In any emergency situation, it’s important to pay attention to what the experts are saying, and perhaps more importantly, how they’re saying it. On Sunday, Wired’s Maryn McKenna noted that two of the most preeminent public health officials in the US are sounding a serious alarm about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota has noted that the epidemic has “the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done.” Dr. Michael Besser, former acting head of the CDC, is arguing for a “military-style response” by American or United Nations doctors and armed forces.

The mathematics that are driving these messages are downright scary. In a peer-reviewed paper published last week, scientists attempted to figure out the reproductive number of the virus (the number of cases that are likely to be caused by one infected person). They determined that this outbreak has a reproductive number of at least one, sometimes two.  That means that every infected person has infected at least one other person. This is terrifying news.

Dr. Osterholm has posited two potential outcomes of the epidemic:

  • The virus spreads to large cities in other regions of the developing world
  • The virus mutates to allow for airborne transmission

The Wired article’s closing says it all:

“When one of the most senior disease detectives in the US begins talking about “plague,” knowing how emotive that word can be, and another suggests calling out the military, it is time to start paying attention.”

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