A virus can start as innocent as a cough. It can progress to chills and a fever. But unless someone identifies it as fatal, the public may treat it as a simple case of the sniffles.
Are we ready?
If we’ve learned anything from past outbreaks, we would know we’re never quite ready for what would come next when a contagion strikes. Having lived through the SARS epidemic when it hit Toronto in 2003, I saw firsthand what unpreparedness and paranoia could do to a city.
Let’s talk a bit about this for Monday Mayhem.
At the time, I was taking the train in and out of the city. My commute was an hour one way. During the course of the ride, people would come and go, and not a day would go by that the front page didn’t feature the latest SARS mortality rates. The public was on edge. During my rides, a noticeable silence had hit commuters. Many were afraid to speak, as they didn’t want anyone to think they were possible carriers. Who knew if the virus was airborne?
Some riders wore masks, while others sat in different places. The ends of the train, where the single seats rested next to the doors, became gold. They were away from everyone, and the doors would make for a quick exit—just in case. When people boarded, those seats became the first ones to fill.
And if you had coughed, the dirty looks would have carried until the following week where you either had decided to transfer to another car or find yourself another train.
In Canada, SARS had 251 cases with 44 being fatal. That is an 18% fatality rate, the highest in the world. China had 5328 cases, but their fatality rate was an astounding 6.6% (Source: WHO).
Are we ready?
In recent weeks, the Ebola virus has once again resurfaced. Between 1976 and 2012, 2328 reported cases affected regions as far as Juba, Sudan and Orientale Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2014 alone, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have had 759 confirmed cases so far (Source: WHO).
What makes this outbreak so different is its reach. No longer limited to remote areas, it is now surfacing in populated areas where air travel is common. The CDC says the incubation period can be anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and lack of appetite.
The virus works by suppressing the body’s natural ability to clot thereby liquefying organs.
I can only hope we are ready.
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What precautions have you taken to prevent the spread of germs in your household?