Ebolavirus

October 9, 2014

Ebola-virus-structure

 

I don’t sell things. I don’t get kickbacks or bonus checks or free products from “partners” who profit from my recommendations. I don’t have a book, an e-book, or a class, to sell you. I write. I recommend products I find useful and pass along connections to information that I have found to be valuable for me. Maybe you’ll find the products useful as well… or maybe they just won’t work for your needs. Maybe the information will be valuable to you, or maybe it won’t fit with the situation in which you find yourself. But that’s the important lesson about being prepared: preparedness is personal. What works for me may not work for you. All the money in the world won’t help you if the stuff you have isn’t the stuff you need… and the stuff you need won’t help you if you don’t have the know-how to put it to good use.

That being said, a LOT of people are going to start harping about Ebolavirus. You’re going to hear about “near magic formulas” that will protect your family. You’re going to hear about “the cures the government doesn’t want you to know about.” Most of what you’re going to hear is crap. It’s crap designed to separate you from your hard-earned dollars.

I don’t know about you, but I’m living on blue collar wages. And I need every bit of the money I take home. I don’t have the disposable income to blow on “miracle cures” and “secrets” that amount to nothing. I need solid, practical advice. I don’t have time or money for crap. I bet you don’t either.

I don’t believe in hoarding knowledge for profit. I believe in sharing it. I believe that knowledge is power. The more you know, the safer you can be in most circumstances.

I’m about to pass along the best info I’ve found on Ebolavirus. It’s a Pathogen Safety Data Sheet for Ebolavirus issue by the Public Health Agency of Canada. A Pathogen Safety Data Sheet is sort of like a Material Safety Data Sheet: it helps you know what you’re dealing with and how best to keep yourself as safe as possible. Like an MSDS, a PSDS takes something complex and breaks it down into more manageable pieces.

After the link, I’m going to present some pertinent excerpts from the text from the PSDS with notes & annotations to help clear up some of the medical terminology and put things in layman’s terms. Here’s something else, a disclaimer… because y’know… the lawyers and ambulance chasers are always out there… I’m not a medical professional. I’m a regular woman trying to figure things out. I use a dictionary and Google and WebMD and AltaVista and DuckDuckGo to find facts and define words that I don’t understand. I can’t give you medical advice. And if you go out and do something stupid or deliberately put yourself in harm’s way and cut corners and get infected with something, that’s on you. If you have questions or you’re sick, you should consult medical professionals.

You’ll also see how quite a LOT of this just isn’t going to apply to you. Currently your odds of coming into contact with anyone who’s infected are quite low… unless you make a habit of travelling to hot zones, or you have a job that puts you in proximity to infected persons.

Here’s the link to the best info I’ve found on Ebolavirus:

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/ebola-eng.php

Here’s the pertinent info from the PSDS [my notes/comments are in BOLD italic type]:

PATHOGEN SAFETY DATA SHEET – INFECTIOUS SUBSTANCES

SECTION I – INFECTIOUS AGENT

NAME: Ebolavirus

SYNONYM OR CROSS REFERENCE: African haemorrhagic fever, Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF, Ebola HF), filovirus, EBO virus (EBOV), Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV), Sudan ebolavirus (SEBOV, SUDV), Ivory Coast ebolavirus (ICEBOV), Tai Forest ebolavirus (TAFV), Ebola-Reston (REBOV, EBO-R, Reston Virus, RESTV), Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BEBOV, BDBV), and Ebola virus disease (EVD) Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 3 Footnote 4.

Essentially, this section lets you know that there are several strains of Ebolavirus.

 

SECTION II – HAZARD IDENTIFICATION

PATHOGENICITY/TOXICITY: Ebola virions enter host cells through endocytosis and replication occurs in the cytoplasm. Upon infection, the virus affects the host blood coagulative and immune defence system and leads to severe immunosuppression Footnote 10 Footnote 12. Early signs of infection are non-specific and flu-like, [this is why people often wait too long to seek treatment… it presents like the flu] and may include sudden onset of fever, asthenia [weakness, lack of energy], diarrhea, headache, myalgia [muscle aches], arthralgia [weakness, lack of joint pain], vomiting, and abdominal pains Footnote 13. Less common early symptoms include conjunctival injection [“red eye,” severely bloodshot eyes], sore throat, rashes, and bleeding. Shock, cerebral oedema [fluid on the brain], coagulation disorders, and secondary bacterial infection may co-occur later in infection Footnote 8. Haemorrhagic symptoms may begin 4 – 5 days after onset, including hemorrhagic conjunctivitis [extremely red and swollen eyes w/ bleeding], pharyngitis, bleeding gums, oral/lip ulceration, hematemesis [vomiting blood], melena [black, tarry feces – associated with blood in the GI tract], hematuria [blood in the urine], epistaxis [nosebleed], and vaginal bleeding Footnote 14. Hepatocellular damage [liver damage], marrow suppression (such as thrombocytopenia [low blood platelet count], and leucopenia [decreased white blood cell count]), serum transaminase elevation [abnormal liver enzymes – but this makes sense since liver damage is part of the deal], and proteinuria [excess protein in the urine],may also occur. Persons that are terminally ill typically present with obtundation [decreased mental alertness], anuria [a condition in which the kidneys fail to produce urine], shock, tachypnea [rapid breathing], normothermia to hypothermia [normal to low body termperature – which is weird since fever hits you at the onset], arthralgia, and ocular diseases Footnote 15. Haemorrhagic diathesis [susceptibility to bleeding], is often accompanied by hepatic damage [liver damage], and renal failure [kidney failure], central nervous system involvement, and terminal shock with multi-organ failure Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Contact with the virus may also result in symptoms such as severe acute viral illness, malaise [you feel like s***], and maculopapular rash. Pregnant women will usually abort their foetuses and experience copious bleeding Footnote 2 Footnote 16. Fatality rates range between 50 – 100%, with most dying of hypovolemic shock [shock caused by the heart not having enough fluid to pump effectively], and multisystem organ failure Footnote 17.

They treat Ebolavirus by trying to keep your organs going and hoping that your immune system will be able to beat it back.   When you understand what Ebolavirus does in your body, suddenly the treatment protocols make a little more sense.

INFECTIOUS DOSE: Viral hemorrhagic fevers have an infectious dose of 1 – 10 organisms by aerosol in non-human primates Footnote 41.

This is a really small dose of viral organisms. So, caution is called for. Aerosol is different from airbone. Aerosol means that the virus has to be transported IN another substance. If it were truly airborne it wouldn’t need another substance, it would just float invisibly, microscopically in the air. IT DOESN’T DO THAT AND HASN’T MUTATED TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT. AEROSOL IS DIFFERENT FROM AIRBORNE.

MODE OF TRANSMISSION: Person-to-person transmission occurs via close personal contact with an infected individual or their body fluids during the late stages of infection or after death Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 22 Footnote 42. Nosocomial infections can occur through contact with infected body fluids for example due to the reuse of unsterilized syringes, needles, or other medical equipment contaminated with these fluids Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Humans may be infected by handling sick or dead non-human primates and are also at risk when handling the bodies of deceased humans in preparation for funerals Footnote 2 Footnote 10 Footnote 43.

Person-to-person transmission occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids or tissues.

INCUBATION PERIOD: Two to 21 days Footnote 1 Footnote 15 Footnote 17.

COMMUNICABILITY: Communicable as long as blood, body fluids or organs, contain the virus. Ebolavirus has been isolated from semen 61 to 82 days after the onset of illness, and transmission through semen has occurred 7 weeks after clinical recovery Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 59 Footnote 60.

82 days. Use a condom.

 

SECTION III – DISSEMINATION

RESERVOIR: The natural reservoir of Ebola is unknown Footnote 1 Footnote 2. Antibodies to the virus have been found in the serum of domestic guinea pigs and wild rodents, with no relation to human transmission Footnote 34 Footnote 47. Serum antibodies and viral RNA have been identified in some bat species, suggesting bats may be a natural reservoir Footnote 37 Footnote 38 Footnote 39 Footnote 40.

No one knows where it lives in nature. In the States, it’ll be people.

ZOONOSIS: Zoonosis between humans and animal is suspected Footnote 2 Footnote 22 Footnote 37.

VECTORS: Unknown.

 

SECTION IV – STABILITY AND VIABILITY

All information available on stability and viability comes from peer-reviewed literature sources depicting experimental findings and is intended to support local risk assessments in a laboratory setting.

DRUG SUSCEPTIBILITY: Unknown. Although clinical trials have been completed, no vaccine has been approved for treatment of ebolavirus. Similarly, no post-exposure measures have been reported as effective in treating ebolavirus infection in humans although several studies have been completed in animals to determine the efficacy of various treatments.

DRUG RESISTANCE: There are no known antiviral treatments available for human infections.

As the situation continues to unfold, we’re hearing about more & more experimental drugs, vaccines & therapies. When the Canadians generated the PSDS there were no known antiviral treatments available… that is to say that there wasn’t an antiviral drug that would successfully combat Ebolavirus. . It doesn’t mean that there aren’t treatment measures to be taken for an infected person.

Currently I think it’s safe to assume that someone who’s suspected of infection will have everything thrown at them in order to stop the spread of the disease. The question, as we saw with the drug ZMapp is whether the demand will outstrip the supply.

 

SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DISINFECTANTS: Ebolavirus is susceptible to 3% acetic acid, 1% glutaraldehyde, alcohol-based products, and dilutions (1:10-1:100 for ≥10 minutes) of 5.25% household bleach (sodium hypochlorite), and calcium hypochlorite (bleach powder) Footnote 48 Footnote 49 Footnote 50 Footnote 62 Footnote 63. The WHO recommendations for cleaning up spills of blood or body fluids suggest flooding the area with a 1:10 dilutions of 5.25% household bleach for 10 minutes for surfaces that can tolerate stronger bleach solutions (e.g., cement, metal) Footnote 62. For surfaces that may corrode or discolour, they recommend careful cleaning to remove visible stains followed by contact with a 1:100 dilution of 5.25% household bleach for more than 10 minutes.

3% acetic acid: the acid most commonly associated with vinegar. Most vinegar is somewhere between 4 – 8% acetic acid. Vinegar. Ebolavirus is susceptible to vinegar. And alcohol based cleansers. And household bleach. You don’t necessarily need exotic cleanser to kill it on surfaces.

 

PHYSICAL INACTIVATION: Ebola are moderately thermolabile and can be inactivated by heating for 30 minutes to 60 minutes at 60°C, boiling for 5 minutes, or gamma irradiation (1.2 x106 rads to 1.27 x106 rads) combined with 1% glutaraldehyde Footnote 10 Footnote 48 Footnote 50. Ebolavirus has also been determined to be moderately sensitive to UVC radiation Footnote 51.

60 degrees Celcius = about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: Filoviruses have been reported capable to survive for weeks in blood and can also survive on contaminated surfaces, particularly at low temperatures (4°C) Footnote 52 Footnote 61. One study could not recover any Ebolavirus from experimentally contaminated surfaces (plastic, metal or glass) at room temperature Footnote 61.  In another study, Ebolavirus dried onto glass, polymeric silicone rubber, or painted aluminum alloy is able to survive in the dark for several hours under ambient conditions (between 20 and 250C and 30–40% relative humidity) (amount of virus reduced to 37% after 15.4 hours), but is less stable than some other viral hemorrhagic fevers (Lassa) Footnote 53. When dried in tissue culture media onto glass and stored at 4 °C, Zaire ebolavirus survived for over 50 days Footnote 61. This information is based on experimental findings only and not based on observations in nature. This information is intended to be used to support local risk assessments in a laboratory setting.

A study on transmission of ebolavirus from fomites in an isolation ward concludes that the risk of transmission is low when recommended infection control guidelines for viral hemorrhagic fevers are followed Footnote 64. Infection control protocols included decontamination of floors with 0.5% bleach daily and decontamination of visibly contaminated surfaces with 0.05% bleach as necessary.

 

SECTION V – FIRST AID / MEDICAL

SURVEILLANCE: Definitive diagnosis can be reached rapidly in an appropriately equipped laboratory using a multitude of approaches, including RT-PCR to detect viral RNA, ELISA based techniques to detect anti-Ebola antibodies or viral antigens, immunoelectron microscopy to detect ebolavirus particles in tissues and cells, and indirect immunofluorescence to detect antiviral antibodies Footnote 1 Footnote 2 Footnote 14 Footnote 41. Note: All diagnostic methods are not necessarily available in all countries.

Definitive diagnosis through blood test.

 

FIRST AID/TREATMENT: There is no effective antiviral treatment Footnote 27 Footnote 37. Instead, treatment is supportive, and is directed at maintaining organ function and electrolyte balance and combating haemorrhage and shock Footnote 22 Footnote 55.

Treatment is SUPPORTIVE. They try to keep your body going while your immune system finds its feet and mounts a defense against the virus.

 

IMMUNIZATION: None Footnote 27.

PROPHYLAXIS: None. Management of the Ebola virus is solely based on isolation and barrier-nursing with symptomatic and supportive treatments Footnote 8.

Isolation (and social distancing). “Barrier-nursing” means wearing personal protective equipment and not getting exposed to infected fluids or tissues.

 

PRIMARY HAZARDS: Accidental parenteral inoculation, respiratory exposure to infectious aerosols/droplets, and/or direct contact with skin or mucous membranes Footnote 54.

You get it by breathing or ingesting infectious fluids or tissues (blood, saliva, tears, sweat, mucus, semen, feces, vomit, etc.), or by having those things in contact with your mucous membranes. 

UPDATED: August 2014.

PREPARED BY: Centre for Biosecurity, Public Health Agency of Canada.

Although the information, opinions and recommendations contained in this Pathogen Safety Data Sheet are compiled from sources believed to be reliable, we accept no responsibility for the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability or for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information. Newly discovered hazards are frequent and this information may not be completely up to date.

Copyright ©

Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014
Canada

 

REFERENCES

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Footnote 2

Acha, P. N., & Szyfres, B. (2003). In Pan American Health Organization (Ed.), Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases Common to Man and Animals (3rd ed., pp. 142-145). Washington D.C.: Pan American Health Organization.

Footnote 3

International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (2013 Release). Virus Taxonomy. Ebolavirus. http://www.ictvonline.org/virusTaxonomy.asp

Footnote 4

Kuhn, J. H., Becker, S., Ebihara, H., Geisbert, T. W., Johnson, K. M., Kawaoka, Y., Lipkin IW, Negredo AI, Netesov SV, Nichol ST, Palacios G, Peters CJ, Tenorio A, Volchokov VE, & Jahrling, P. B. (2010). Proposal for a revised taxonomy of the family Filoviridae: classification, names of taxa and viruses, and virus abbreviations. Archives of virology, 155(12), 2083-2103.

Footnote 5

Sanchez, A. (2001). Filoviridae: Marburg and Ebola Viruses. In D. M. Knipe, & P. M. Howley (Eds.), Fields virology (4th ed., pp. 1279-1304). Philadelphia, PA.: Lippencott-Ravenpp.

Footnote 6

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Footnote 7

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Footnote 8

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Footnote 9

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Footnote 10

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Footnote 11

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Footnote 12

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Footnote 13

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Footnote 14

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Footnote 15

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Footnote 16

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Footnote 17

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Footnote 18

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Footnote 19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1990). Epidemiologic notes and reports updates: filovirus infection in animal handlers. MMWR, 39, 221.

Footnote 20

World Health Organization. Global Alert and Response (GAR) – Ebola virus disease update – West Africa. Disease outbreak news. August 6 2014

Footnote 21

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Footnote 22

Bausch, D. G., Jeffs B.S.A.G, & Boumandouki, P. (2008). Treatment of Marburg and Ebola haemorrhagic fevers: a strategy for testing new drugs and vaccines under outbreak conditions. Antiviral Res., 78(1), 150-161.

Footnote 23

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Footnote 24

WHO Disease Outbreak News – Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever in Uganda – Update. (2007). 2008

Footnote 25

Formenty, P., Boesch, C., Wyers, M., Steiner, C., Donati, F., Dind, F., Walker, F., & Le Guenno, B. (1999). Ebola virus outbreak among wild chimpanzees living in a rain forest of Cote d’Ivoire. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179 Suppl 1, S120-6. doi:10.1086/514296.

Footnote 26

Bray, M. (2003). Defense against filoviruses used as biological weapons. Antiviral Research, 57(1-2), 53-60.

Footnote 27

Leroy, E. M., Rouquet, P., Formenty, P., Souquière, S., Kilbourne, A., Froment, J., Bermejo, M., Smit, S., Karesh, W., Swanepoel, R., Zaki, S. R., & Rollin, P. E. (2004). Multiple Ebola Virus Transmission Events and Rapid Decline of Central African Wildlife. Science, 303(5656), 387-390.

Footnote 28

Nfon, C. K., Leung, A., Smith, G., Embury-Hyatt, C., Kobinger, G., & Weingartl, H. M. (2013). Immunopathogenesis of severe acute respiratory disease in Zaire ebolavirus-infected pigs. PloS one, 8(4), e61904.

Footnote 29

Kobinger, G. P., Leung, A., Neufeld, J., Richardson, J. S., Falzarano, D., Smith, G., Tierney, K., Patel, A., & Weingartl, H. M. (2011). Replication, pathogenicity, shedding, and transmission of Zaire ebolavirus in pigs. Journal of Infectious Diseases, jir077.

Footnote 30

Marsh, G. A., Haining, J., Robinson, R., Foord, A., Yamada, M., Barr, J. A., Payne, J., White, J., Yu, M., Bingham, J., Rollin, P. E., Nichol, S. T., Wang, L-F., & Middleton, D. (2011). Ebola Reston virus infection of pigs: clinical significance and transmission potential. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 204(suppl 3), S804-S809.

Footnote 31

Morris, K. (2009). First pig-to-human transmission of Ebola Reston virus.9(3), 148.

Footnote 32

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Footnote 33

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Footnote 34

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Footnote 35

Connolly, B. M., Steele, K. E., Davis, K. J., Geisbert, T. W., Kell, W. M., Jaax, N. K., & Jahrling, P. B. (1999). Pathogenesis of experimental Ebola virus infection in guinea pigs. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179 Suppl 1, S203-17.

Footnote 36

Ebihara, H., Zivcec, M., Gardner, D., Falzarano, D., LaCasse, R., Rosenke, R., Long, D., Haddock, E., Fischer, E., Kawaoka, Y., & Feldmann, H. (2012). A Syrian golden hamster model recapitulating Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Journal of Infectious Diseases, jis626.

Footnote 37

Leroy, E. M., Kumulungui, B., Pourrut, X., Rouquet, P., Hassanin, A., Yaba, P., Délicat, A., Paweska, J. T., Gonzalez, J., & Swanepoel, R. (2005). Fruit bats as reservoirs of Ebola virus. Nature, 438(7068), 575-576.

Footnote 38

Hayman, D. T., Yu, M., Crameri, G., Wang, L. F., Suu-Ire, R., Wood, J. L., & Cunningham, A. A. (2012). Ebola virus antibodies in fruit bats, Ghana, West Africa. Emerging infectious diseases, 18(7), 1207.

Footnote 39

Yuan, J., Zhang, Y., Li, J., Zhang, Y., Wang, L. F., & Shi, Z. (2012). Serological evidence of ebolavirus infection in bats, China. Virol. J, 9, 236.

Footnote 40

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Footnote 41

Franz, D. R., Jahrling, P. B., Friedlander, A. M., McClain, D. J., Hoover, D. L., Bryne, W. R., Pavlin, J. A., Christopher, G. W., & Eitzen, E. M. (1997). Clinical recognition and management of patients exposed to biological warfare agents. Jama, 278(5), 399-411.

Footnote 42

Arthur, R. R. (2002). Ebola in Africa–discoveries in the past decade. Euro Surveillance : Bulletin Europeen Sur Les Maladies Transmissibles = European Communicable Disease Bulletin, 7(3), 33-36.

Footnote 43

Hewlett, B. S., & Amolat, R. P. (2003). Cultural contexts of Ebola in Northern Uganda. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 9(10), 1242-1248.

Footnote 44

Reed, D. S., Lackemeyer, M. G., Garza, N. L., Sullivan, L. J., & Nichols, D. K. (2011). Aerosol exposure to Zaire ebolavirus in three nonhuman primate species: differences in disease course and clinical pathology. Microbes and Infection, 13(11), 930-936.

Footnote 45

Twenhafel, N. A., Mattix, M. E., Johnson, J. C., Robinson, C. G., Pratt, W. D., Cashman, K. A., Wahl-Jensen, V., Terry, C., Olinger, G. G., Hensley, L. E., & Honko, A. N. (2012). Pathology of experimental aerosol Zaire ebolavirus infection in rhesus macaques. Veterinary Pathology Online, 0300985812469636.

Footnote 46

Weingartl, H. M., Embury-Hyatt, C., Nfon, C., Leung, A., Smith, G., & Kobinger, G. (2012). Transmission of Ebola virus from pigs to non-human primates. Scientific reports, 2.

Footnote 47

Stansfield, S. K., Scribner, C. L., Kaminski, R. M., Cairns, T., McCormick, J. B., & Johnson, K. M. (1982). Antibody to Ebola virus in guinea pigs: Tandala, Zaire. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 146(4), 483-486.

Footnote 48

Mitchell, S. W., & McCormick, J. B. (1984). Physicochemical inactivation of Lassa, Ebola, and Marburg viruses and effect on clinical laboratory analyses. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 20(3), 486-489.

Footnote 49

Elliott, L. H., McCormick, J. B., & Johnson, K. M. (1982). Inactivation of Lassa, Marburg, and Ebola viruses by gamma irradiation. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 16(4), 704-708.

Footnote 50

World Health Organization. Interim Infection Control Recommendationsfor Care of Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Filovirus (Ebola, Marburg) Haemorrhagic Fever. March 2008

Footnote 51

Sagripanti, J. L., & Lytle, C. D. (2011). Sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation of Lassa, vaccinia, and Ebola viruses dried on surfaces. Archives of virology, 156(3), 489-494.

Footnote 52

Belanov, E. F., Muntianov, V. P., Kriuk, V., Sokolov, A. V., Bormotov, N. I., P’iankov, O. V., & Sergeev, A. N. (1995). [Survival of Marburg virus infectivity on contaminated surfaces and in aerosols]. Voprosy virusologii, 41(1), 32-34.

Footnote 53

Sagripanti, J-L., Rom, A.M., Holland, L.E. (2010) Persistence in darkness of virulent alphaviruses, Ebola virus, and Lass virus deposited on solid surfaces. Arch Virol. 155: 2035-9.

Footnote 54

Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) (2007). In Richmond J. Y., McKinney R. W. (Eds.), . Washington, D.C.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Footnote 55

Clark, D. V., Jahrling, P. B., & Lawler, J. V. (2012). Clinical Management of Filovirus-Infected Patients. Viruses, 4(9), 1668-1686.

Footnote 56

Emond, R. T. D., Evans, B., Bowen, E. T. W., & Lloyd, G. (1977). A case of Ebola virus infection. British Medical Journal, 2(6086), 541-544.

Footnote 57

Formenty, P., Hatz, C., Le Guenno, B., Stoll, A., Rogenmoser, P., & Widmer, A. (1999). Human infection due to Ebola virus, subtype Cote d’Ivoire: Clinical and biologic presentation. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179(SUPPL. 1), S48-S53.

Footnote 58

Human pathogens and toxins act. S.C. 2009, c. 24, Second Session, Fortieth Parliament, 57-58 Elizabeth II, 2009. (2009).

Footnote 59

Rowe AK, Bertolli J,Khan AS,et al. Clinical, virologic, and immunologic follow-up of convalescent Ebola hemorrhagic fever patients and their household contacts, Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Commission de Lutte contre les Epidemies à Kikwit. J Infect Dis 1999;179 (Suppl 1):S28-35.

Footnote 60

Rodriguez LL, De Roo A, Guimard Y, et al. Persistence and genetic stability of Ebola virus during the outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1995. J Infect Dis 1999;179 (Suppl 1):S170-6.

Footnote 61

Piercy, T.J., Smither, S.J., Steward, J.A., Eastaugh, L., Lever, M.S. (2010) The survival of filoviruses in liquids, on solid substrates and in a dynamic aerosol. J Appl Microbiol. 109(5): 1531-9.

Footnote 62

World Health Organization (2010). WHO best practices for injections and related procedures toolkit. March 2010. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2010/9789241599252_eng.pdf?ua=1

Footnote 63

World Health Organization (2014). Interim infection prevention and control guidance for care of patients with suspected or confirmed filovirus haemorrhagic fever in health-care settings, with focus on Ebola. August 2014.
http://www.who.int/csr/resources/who-ipc-guidance-ebolafinal-09082014.pdf

Footnote 64

Baush, D.G., Towner, J.S., Dowell, S.F., Kaducu, F., Lukwiya, M., Sanchez, A., Nichol, S.T., Ksiazek, T.G., Rollin, P.E. (2007) Assessment of the Risk of Ebola virus Transmission from Bodily Fluids and Fomites. JID. 196 (Suppl 2).

 

 

What scares you more? A perspective on stuff vs. everything else

September 16, 2014

Wow, I thought being unemployed was crazy. Now the headlines seem worse than ever. We’ve seen civil unrest sparked by a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri… the worst ebola virus outbreak in more than a dozen years… the rise of ISIL in the Middle East… heck, even in my home town of Albuquerque, the Department of Justice had to wade in and weigh in on police use of force. And God only knows what’s been going on that mainstream, media hasn’t covered and spit up for us. These are crazy, evening frightening, days.

 

So, folks… what scares you more? What sorts of emergencies and situations do you think are more likely where you live? And are they the same things… those things that scare you, versus the things that are most likely? krqd-apd-rally11-1024x576-socialistorganizer.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may be sexy and cool to prepare for a zombie attack, but is it really likely? In the face of a pandemic, will the ammunition you stockpiled protect you from infection as effectively as an N95 mask? And will any amount of guns, or personal protective equipment protect you if you don’t have it when you need it? Or what if you don’t see the emergency developing around you and don’t have time to save yourself or your family? I’ll write more soon about likelihood vs. impact… and about what sorts of situations we’ve found ourselves in over the last few months…

 

But in the meantime… ask yourself… what scares you? And how can you be prepared for it?

 

 

Image from socialistorganizer.org

Crazy Times

October 1, 2013

Here it is, October 1, 2013 and the world is changing around us. Summer is giving way to autumn. The nation is not-so-quietly trying to adapt to the first pieces of the Affordable Care Act taking effect and our national government has manage to shut itself down for the first time in, what is it now, eighteen years I believe. Strange days, my friends.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how we’re starting at Square One, re-addressing what it means to be prepared in light of a new diagnosis in the family, and the potential of another family member coming to live with us. Life, in its infinite wisdom has thrown us another wrinkle: five days after my last post my boss called me in to work on my day off and laid me off.

ImageShe could no longer meet payroll, she said, our system wasn’t sustainable. Even though, in no small part due to my work with her, we had more than doubled the practice volume (from 120 patients per month to more than 300), “past debt obligations” now made it impossible for her to meet payroll. Thanks and goodbye.

In what will be the last rant at my former boss, I will say that I think we put a good system together and now she’s going run with it. I think she was thinking that with only three remaining employees, she wouldn’t be impacted by the Affordable Care Act  (amateur mistake).  I also think that she had no desire nor any intention of implementing the Privacy and Security measures required of her by HIPAA and HITECH and eliminated the voice that was reminding her that she needed to be compliant if she wanted to continue doing business.  Like the kitten hiding only its head under the couch, if she can’t see it, it ain’t there.

Well, we live and learn. I hope.

So, here I am pushing 50, unemployed and trying to keep the family fed, the roof over our head, keep the lights on and the water running and still manage to make some preparations on a much-more-limited budget. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.

This is a boat hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans find themselves in.  So folks, let’s all row together. We’re stronger together than alone.

Thanks for reading. You’re the best.

~L

Image from University of Southern California Center for Work and Family Life

Making other plans, Part 1

September 17, 2013

In my September 13, 2013 entry, I talked a little about how we were back to square one with our preparations. In this series, we’ll begin to address what that looks like and how we’re dealing with it… or trying to…

Making other plans, Part 1

Previously, we had been preparing with the goal of maintaining two adults with a conventional sort of assortment of food and a butt load of water. Now, we’re preparing with the goal of maintaining three adults – and two of those adults have a diabetes diagnosis. This may not seem like a big deal, but both of those diabetics control their blood sugar through exercise and carbohydrate restriction. The other could eat whatever was on the table, but wouldn’t be harmed by the carb cutback. When you look at most prepping  and survival websites, you’re going to see all this advice on buying and storing grains, and what to do with grains, grinding grains, and baking breads in your solar oven, great desert ideas and 1001 ways to cook oatmeal and all that.

Not so much with that for us. Not anymore. We could maybe get away with a little of that for a short term survival situation, but it wouldn’t be long before the carbohydrate load was causing my diabetic housemates to suffer mood swings (just what you need during an emergency), headaches, and the other health effects you get when a diabetic’s blood sugar gets out of hand: they’ll catch every cold that’s going around; they’ll become susceptible to urinary tract infections; and the list goes on. NONE of that is what you want to be facing when you’re in a situation where everyone needs to be functioning as close to 100% as possible.

So, how do you prepare when you have to get 2,000 – 3,000 calories a day, but fewer than 100 carbs? That’s a damned good question. One which we’ve been working on for nearly two years.

First, the good news

The good news is that neither diabetic requires insulin. Unlike many other diabetic households, we’re not faced with the daunting task of procuring and storing insulin. We do, however, have to worry about getting enough of the right kinds of calories while not slowly killing the diabetics with carb overload.

Some folks might poo-poo this carb restriction approach, but it is the only thing which has worked for the two diabetic adults in our house. It has allowed them to stay off insulin, cut back to the most minimal doses of their glucophagic medication (now it’s a PRN instead of an everyday med), caused weight loss, lowered their triglycerides, and lowered their blood pressure. Writing as the non-diabetic in the household, here’s what it did for me: 145 points off my triglycerides in 8 months and I lost 40 pounds. Dropping the weight also dropped my resting heart rate and gave me the energy to do more stuff: like exercise – or just get my chores done. So, laugh all you want, the carb restriction has done great things for us… now the question became: how do we prep?

minnesota public radio waterMore Water. No, really, MORE water.

When you’re cutting carbs, you’re naturally consuming more protein and more fat to get your calories. The reason this matters for your preps is that these foods require more water for your body to process them. It takes more water from your body to break down the proteins and fats, and more water to transport away the waste products of their metabolism.

We drink a lot of water anyway – about an ounce per two pounds of body weight per person per day at minimum. Usually more. An ounce of water per pound of body weight is not unusual for us – and we’ll go more than that if we’re working hard, or if it’s really hot, or both. This is what everybody needs minimally anyway. But if you’re low-carbing it, adequate water intake is essential for proper kidney and liver function. Seriously essential: no one wants to deal with liver damage or kidney failure — especially during a crisis.

So, adequate water. What’s adequate water? Again, our rule of thumb is a minimum of two ounces per pound of body weight per person per day. For example: let’s say you weigh 150 pounds. You’d need a minimum of 75 ounces of water a day, every day. If you were working hard chopping wood in winter, or fixing fence in the sun, you’d need a minimum of 150 ounces – one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. You might even need more if you tend to sweat profusely. And, if you low-carb it like we do, you’ll need to be much closer to that one ounce per pound mark.

I weigh 140 pounds. My water bottle I use at the office holds 26 ounces (what a weird number, right?). I drink at least 3 of them every day – 78 ounces of water. That gets me my minimum number every day. When I’m outdoors working, like I was last weekend, I drink far more than that. Last weekend, when I was outside both days, I drank 6 liters on Saturday (that’s 203 ounces of water) and 4 liters on Sunday (135 ounces). I was wrung out from the heat, but even on Monday my urine was clear and copious.

Cody Lundin, one of my prepping/survival idols, recommends stockpiling 3 gallons of water person per day. For him, this includes the water you use for hygienic purposes. If you’re adding extra water to compensate for processing the proteins and fats, this would certainly be your minimum number – and it should probably be even higher.

Now that you have a better idea of how much water you need every day, how much water you need to store is a matter of multiplying your daily gallons by how many days you want to be prepared. Let’s say I’m stockpiling 4 gallons water per day per person in my household. That’s 12 gallons. If we’re prepping for a week (really y’all, 72 hours is a joke… FEMA tells you in disaster training to prepare for a minimum of two weeks — that 72-hour thing is only for the most minor emergencies)… 12 gallons x 7 days is 84 gallons. Two weeks: 168 gallons (about 712 liters of water – that’s 60 cases of those little water bottles). A month: 336 gallons. That’s a lot of water. A whole lot of water.

I’m not going to go into how best to store water. That’s far too individualized and many other authors cover the subject more than adequately. What I want you to take away from this entry today is this: if you have special dietary and/or medical considerations, you don’t get to prep like everybody else.

I’ll be honest. We don’t have enough water put away. Not yet. We have numerous cases of “those little water bottles” that we buy when they go on sale. But we don’t have enough. As a household, we’re currently discussing how we want to handle the expense and logistics of storing more water. We’re debating various options: opening our well (our property has a sealed well on it), buying a storage tank, putting in rain barrels, etc. And we’ll keep you posted as the planning and implementation goes along.

Here’s what I want you to take away from this: if you have a medical condition like diabetes, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, etc. you are not going to be able to prepare like everyone else. You might want to say “Oh, just forget my diagnosis,” but you can’t. Your survival during a crisis situation depends on being even more conscious of your diagnosis before all hell busts loose. The good news about this is that when you feel you’re finally squared away with your preps, your diagnosis is going to be one less thing you have to worry about.

So, that’s it for Part 1 of Making Other Plans. In Part 2 we’ll talk a little more about water and start to dig into the issue of food and how we’re handling it.

As always, thanks for reading. We’re stronger together.

~L

References & Recommended Reading

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, Cody Lundin, 2007, Gibbs Smith Press.

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life, Nora Gedgaudas, 2001, Healing Arts

Image courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio

Long time gone…

September 13, 2013
Street sign in Albuquerque - photo credit long since lost. My Apologies to the photographer.

Street sign in Albuquerque – photo credit long since lost. My Apologies to the photographer.

So, yeah… it’s been nearly two years since I sat down to blog. This is unfortunate, because a lot that deserves honest attention has happened in that time: the blossoming of the latest wave of zombie popularity (which is fun stuff and has tremendous application for folks who want to be prepared), the unwinding of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, the escalation of tensions elsewhere in the Middle East, new viruses, new technologies, the NSA surveillance debacle, the drone program, the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the madness of the world economy, the re-emergence of Fukashima, and on… and on… and on…

And through it all, I’ve been silent. Not intentionally, but it’s that old saw: life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.  In the nearly two years I’ve been away from the keyboard, we’ve been dealing with career changes, and with health and family issues that just seemed more pressing than getting another blog entry out.

Ironically, it’s those same health and family issues that have brought me back to  the laptop after the long silence.  Because of a changing family dynamic and serious health issues, we’ve been confronted with the fact that our preparations are no longer viable. We have been forced to change the way we think about being prepared, change the how we plan and prepare, change the things we decide to store.

The last two years have taken us essentially back to square one. But in that, we feel that there is much to be learned. So, as always, we’ll take you right along with us.  We’ll look at how we prepared before and how we do it differently now. We’ll look at what we’ve learned and what still needs work. We’ll be honest about our victories — and about our epic failures. Because you deserve to know — and because you could be faced with a similar issue, out of the blue, just like we were.

So, expect more blog entries, more articles, more book reviews (our favorite authors are still hard at work). Expect more honesty and personal experience.  Pull up a chair next to the fire (you do know how to get a fire going, don’t you?), and make yourself comfy. Let’s get this show on  the road again.

I look forward to sitting with y’all soon.

~LC

Weathering the storm

January 25, 2012

So, here we are in the midst of the highest level of solar activity since 2005 (the last time that the aurora borealis was visible as far south as New Mexico). My internet access has been extremely spotty for the last few days with major network outages reported over New Mexico and parts of Texas over the weekend. Friends of mine lost cell phone acess for days. Computers have been downright churlish. Other electronics like printers, copiers and faxes have seemed sluggish and uncooperative.

This is nothing new. Given the intensity of the current activity it’s exactly what we’d expect [see earlier post].  After all, there’s been plenty written about the impact of these events on our technology.  Farraday’s experiments showed the power of magnetic fields to induce an electric charge to move through a wire — effectively recreating the impact of geomagnetic storms on a tiny scale. Now that we have a huge power grid, the current from these magnetic disturbances has plent of room to run — often with disastrous results. In 1972, a near quarter-million volt transformer of British Columbia Hydroelectric exploded due to such a spike in current caused by fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field. In 1989, millions of citizens in Quebec experienced a blackout due to solar activity.

The good news and the bad news is that there seems to be no defense against the X-ray bursts, geomagnetic storms, solar radiation, radio interference, or current spikes that are a product of solar activity. Oh sure, we can influence EMF on a very small scale — say, room by room, or building by building (EMF Services). But blocking larger, more powerful magnetic fields? or solar radiation? or those x-ray bursts? Forget about it.

Why is that good news? Well, if you can’t do anything about it, you might as well let it go. Good news: one less thing to fret over. Why is it bad news? Aside from the self evident, the bad news is that we don’t really know what all this solar activity does to us. Sure, there’s been copious research on the effects of EMF, radiation, etc. on the human body. But no one’s really concocted a solid way to study the impact that these solar events have on our cells, our brains or our behavior. Sure, someone with more time than me could study hospital admissions, police reports, psych ward records and probably find correlations between solar activity and various spikes in certain events, injuries or illnesses. But it would be a correlation at best (if it panned out), there would be no proof of a causal relationship.

I’m not the only one who believes that such a relationship exists. Goodness knows that the Air Force studies geomagnetic activity and its potential effects on our technology in all its permutations (AFRL SVD KAFB). It seems to me, if something is powerful enough to impact the functioning of electronic gadgets and even the power grid, powerful enough to penetrate the planet, well… it’s got to be impacting my functioning as well… right? Well, to my mind, it stands to reason.

What those effects might be is the subject of someone’s research project. Heck, maybe mine. Certainly, if I dig it up I’ll post on it. For the time being, the activity that Yahoo.com called a “solar hurricane” is buzzing along outside in the atmosphere. People in the high latitudes are grooving to Mother Nature’s Lava Lamp. Cell phones are getting crappy reception. Printers are losing jobs. Internet Explorer cannot display the page. And computers are inserting errors into office memos.

What’s a girl to do? Simple. I’m turning everything off: router, computer, television and phone. In a day or so I’ll surface with a shrug and say, “Sun spots.”

References

AFRL Space Vehicle Directorate, Kirtland AFB. “AF-GEOSPACE Fact Sheet.” Retrieved from: http://www.kirtland.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=7899

EMF Services. “Magnetic Field Cancellation (Active Shielding).” Retrieved from: http://www.emfservices.com/afcs.htm

Book Review: Scott B. Williams’ Bug Out Vehicles

December 13, 2011

Scott B. Williams has done it again. Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters is the latest in a line of books designed to help you save your hide (and your family) should disaster (or mayhem) strike. Unlike other survival authors who may claim to have all the answers, Williams may actually have them: understand your needs and situation; think for yourself; plan and prepare ahead of time; the world doesn’t have to end for you to be forced to face a nasty scenario and make tough decisions; the more homework you do now, the less stressful it will be later.

Bug Out Vehicles is not a book that will tell you to “do this” or don’t do that.” Instead, Williams walks readers through the thought processes of true preparedness. He wants readers to learn how to think about survival situations, develop skills ahead of time, and get things in order before it’s too late to do anything but panic. Unlike other survival books that seem bent on getting people ready for an influx of zombies or invading aliens, Williams’ books offer sound, common-sense advice on being ready to deal with real world situations: like evacuating ahead of a hurricane or wildfire, for example. The S*** doesn’t have to hit the fan for Williams’ books to be useful.

Williams’ series of books is like a course in preparedness thinking. In Bug Out, he introduced readers to the idea of bugging out, getting them to think in terms of leaving as opposed to trying to stick it out when things go bad. In Getting Out Alive, he introduces the concept of thinking through scenarios ahead of time, in order to think through how you might react in similar situations and what you might do about it. In Bug Out Vehicles, he’s on to the next step, “So, how are you going to get there?”

Bug Out Vehicles begins with the premise “So, you’re leaving for ________ [your bug out shelter, another state, an area not impacted by the disaster, etc.]. Have you given much thought to how you’ll get there?” Along the way Williams covers various sorts of bug out vehicles and runs through lists of pros and cons for each one under various circumstances — what works in an orderly, low-key evacuation for a family of four, might be deadly for a single individual trying to get the hell out of an urban area in the midst of violent civil unrest. And he provides “don’t forget this” checklists for each type of vehicle he discusses.

Williams, to his credit, offers ideas and starting points for many modes of transportation (from human-powered, to internal combustion, to hay powered) and for every income level. The ability to escape in order to survive should not be limited to those with an unlimited budget. Being able to get out, Williams’ says, doesn’t depend on going out and buying a new vehicle. And he makes a compelling case for why your four-door family sedan (as unattractive as you may think it is) may not be such a bad bug out vehicle after all. He offers suggestions for modifications and accommodations for every mode of transport. Again, always with the implied questions, “What if ________?” and “Have you thought about ________?” Williams, if nothing else, wants his readers to get their minds right about being prepared.

Would I recommend Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters? You bet. For most of us, transportation is an afterthought at best. All too often, we take for granted that we’ll hop in ours cars and SUVs and take off. Williams give his reader plenty of food for thought, and readers should be biting.

Letting go but not giving up

May 6, 2011
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here at Legitimate Citizen.
We sort of got washed away in the overwhelm that followed the Honshu quake and the Fukashima Daiichi reactor crisis.  We continue to monitor radiation levels in the states via EPA RadNet and RadiationNetwork. We have struggled with the math as we tried to make sense of the reporting on the incident. After months of conflicting reports and journalistic slight of hand, we have come to a few conclusions.
1) The reporting of radiation releases in the various scales is confusing and probably intentional. We heard rads and sieverts, rems and millirems. Each scale finds use for different purposes and distinguishing between the various scales and which should be used under what circumstances is an arcane science to those of use who don’t work with this stuff every day. We feel that authorities have no interested in provided the public with accurate information, so they kept us confused and scrambling with their nuclear shell game.
p.s. – when numbers get reported in terms of Sieverts that’s usually a very bad sign…
2) If we really knew and understood the magnitude of what has happened to us, we would be enraged and outraged. However, once it’s out, it’s out. There’s not a lot you can do about it. You can take measures to try to protect yourself from radiation. And you can take steps to try to support your body with the tools it needs to mitigate and repair radiation damage. But, mostly, if you’ve been radiated, you just have to do the best you can and wait to see what happens in a couple of decades.
There is a ton of “information” and pseudo-science on the internet about what to do in the event of radiation exposure. Some of these things seem pretty extreme and I’m not certain that they wouldn’t be more harmful than the radiation itself.
Myself, I stick with miso and   teas that contain stinging nettle. Miso contains a compound called dipicolinic acid that has been shown to protect cells from certain forms of radiation. There is anecdotal evidence that it affords considerable protection… but, again, that’s anecdotal evidence. The research on it is limited. But I like miso, so it’s no big deal for me. It’s already part of my diet.
The stinging nettle tea… I can’t remember where I got it. The University of Maryland Medical Center website has a good article on the medicinal properties of stinging nettle. It states, in part:
“Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Today, many people use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), for urinary tract infections, for hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or in compresses or creams for treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites” (University of Maryland, 2010).
While none of that speaks specifically to radiation exposure, nothing I read in there sounds like it’s going to hurt me. Stinging nettle figured prominently in the ingredient list of an “anti-radiation tea” a friend of mine drank religiously after being exposed to radiation from Chernobyl.
3) More than likely, there has been more radiation released than we will ever know. Over the past few months, our casual monitoring has shown us that radiation levels frequently spiked to over a hundred times our normal background level here in Albuquerque. Spikes in other areas were much higher. While this was going on, all we heard in the media was that there was no cause for concern. We may never know directly exactly how bad this event has been. We will see its effects in sea life, in cancer clusters, and in abbreviated lifespans.
4) There is no such thing as healthy radiation (the relationship between sunshine and vitamin D notwithstanding).  Ionizing radiation is not good for you. It is used to treat cancer because it is deadly for cells — and cancer cells are more fragile than normal, healthy cells. Ionizing radiation is always bad for you — and for every other living organism.
5) Ionizing radiation dosages are cumulative. It doesn’t wear off like a dose of aspirin. You can get away with smaller exposures over longer periods of time because your body comes closer to being able to repair the damage to its cells as this damage happens. When the doses are larger and/or closer together, your body can’t keep up. There is the chance that damaged cells will not die, but will replicate with their damaged genetic material. Ionizing radiation doses are cumulative.
The lessons of the crisis in Japan are hard. I’m not talking about the lessons for society about energy, or for policy makers concerned with nuclear waste. I’m talking about the lessons for you and I. The lessons are hard: there are things which are completely out of our control; there are events from which we will be unable protect ourselves regardless of our plans and preparations; control is an illusion; we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the world – we are all interconnected. We’re all in this together.
Since I am seeing that there are things I cannot control, in order to better cope with this crisis, I look at things I can control and the choices I make. I can choose to use less energy, or choose to generate some of my own power through wind and/or solar (we’re not there yet, but it is on the table). I can take care of myself in a way that supports my body to maintain and heal itself – regardless of what I may or may not have been exposed to. I can make choices that reduce my dependence on a system that is not sustainable (like raising some of my own food). I can make choices that help sustain the world as it repairs itself (like planting plants, trees and shrubs that support wildlife or installing bat houses and bird houses or keeping bees). I can choose to do things that bring me peace in the face of the anxiety caused by so many unknowns and so many things that are out of my control: prayer, meditation, study. I can make my voice heard with my elected officials: voicing my opinion about sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture, opposing big-pharma & giant mono-culture agri-business, opposing ramapant insecticide and herbicide use, opposing GMO’s at every level.
Essentially, I’ve been looking at this crisis and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a damned thing I can do about it directly. Here I am. There they are. I’m not a nuclear engineer. I am one woman. I’m going to do what I can where I am and let God, the Universe, the Great Pumpkin or whatever Higher Power there may be take care of the rest.
Thanks for reading.
~ L.
References
University of Maryland School of Medicine. 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm

Radiation angst… see for yourself

March 23, 2011

Until the recent earthquake in Japan, the resultant tsunami and the looming nuclear situation, I had been working on a post about utilities. Specifically, how it is that people in New Mexico didn’t have natural gas to heat their homes during the coldest days in recent memory. It’s a fascinating story with many maddening twists that people who live in this state really ought to understand. But, it’s been pre-empted by another utility situation: Fukashima Daiishi.

I don’t know about you, but my radiation knowledge is not what it probably should be. I mean, I know my “friends” are time, shielding and distance. Limit exposure time. Shielding material can help protect from additional exposure. Get as far away as possible when it’s safe.  Simple right? Sure… until you factor in an unknown radiation source (how much? how fast? what kinds?) and things like the jet stream, prevailing winds and rain. What did it all mean?

Radiation is not as straighforward as natural gas. some radiation, alpha and beta particles, are actual particles. A piece of paper would stop radiation emitted from an alpha particle. Beta radiation is blocked by the dead layer of skin cells, the outermost layer of your epidermis. So you’re safe…? Maybe… unless an event involves gamma or neutron radiation. Then, save for distance or lead shielding, there’s no defense against it.

So, how do we know?

Mostly, we don’t. The public does have some access to government and private radiation monitoring information [see links below]. But, accuracy varies widely. Government officials are notorious for taking a detector offline to “determine its accuracy” when it registers a reading they consider abnormal. In this situation, with five nuclear reactors about to crap out their cores at the other end of the jet stream, who’s to say what’s abnormal?

At our house, we’ve been monitoring radiation levels almost since the start of the incident using the websites below — and charting the trends. Tonight, on the evening news, we heard the first announcement that radiation from Japan was passing over the United States. It was nice to feel like we were on top of things. It feels nice to know that we know (or think we know) what’s going on.

So far, we’re not overly alarmed about the radiation levels we’re seeing. They’re elevated. Sometimes sharply so. The highest reading to date has been about five times our normal background level of radiation… but even that was only two and a half times the normal background radiation on a sunny summer day in Denver. Even at that level, even at five times our normal level, it wasn’t at a level that anyone considers dangerous. At least, not acutely dangerous.

The thing with radiation… is that sometimes your body is able to repair cellular damage than can be caused by radiation exposure. If the exposure is slight enough and occurs over a long enough period of time, it has virtually ZERO impact on your lifespan, or even on your odds of getting cancer. It’s really high, rapid, all-of-a-sudden, sorts of exposure that get you into deep trouble. When the damage occurs faster than your body can compensate and repair it, you end up with all manner of nastiness. Still, long term radiation exposure is generally no good for you (UV and vitamin D relationship aside). You want to avoid it if you can. That’s why your doctor tells you to wear sunscreen and sunglasses (cataracts are the most common form of radiation damage).

So, in the weeks to come, I’ll try to work up some charts to give you guys some numbers on radiation exposure, what the numbers in the media mean, how radiation is measured and why that should be important to you. And we’ll talk about radiation and preparedness: the duct tape and plastic drill, when and why to stock up of potassium idodide, that kind of thing.

Suffice to say, our advice is not to panic. We’ve been watching this thing unfold for awhile. We’ve seen radon detectors pawned off as radiation detectors… $400 geiger counters selling for thousands… and $20 bottle of potassium iodide tablets selling for hundred of dollars. In every situation like this, there are going to be people who prey on your fears. Being educated on the real risks is your best defense.

Here are the links we use to monitor radiation:

EPA website for radiation monitoring: click the link. In the center of the first paragraph, there is a link labeled RadNet Map View. Click that link. It will take you to a page where it displays the EPA’s permanent and mobile radiation detectors.  http://www.epa.gov/cdx/

Radiation Network: a really level-headed guy who runs a grassroots radiation monitoring network. The monitoring stations are all volunteer efforts. Check it out. http://www.radiationnetwork.com/

Black Cat Systems: online ionizing radiation network. Another private endeavor. Although I think his map is a little cumbersome, he has great information on different type of detectors, why readings vary and tons of other reasons not to panic.  http://www.blackcatsystems.com/RadMap/map.html

So, there you have it… our first two bits on Fukashima and radiation. Obviously, you have homework. You’re going to need to know the normal background radiation levels for your area… and you’ll need to know how to convert UTC to your local time zone in order to figure our when a particular reading came in… So, you can either wait for this info in coming posts, or you can make yourself feel better by actually DOING something rather than waiting for some talking head to tell you what you already suspected. Now go get ’em!!!

Thanks for reading… we’re all in this together.

~L.

Book review: Getting Out Alive

March 2, 2011

I’ve been off the radar for awhile. It’s been a busy time with school work and general “stuff” around our micro-homestead. Hopefully, things will level off a bit and you’ll be reading more of us soon.

This weekend, I was thrilled to find Scott B. Williams’ Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived in my mailbox. I have been waiting for it since I read his previous book this summer. I teach Disaster Psychology for our local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training weekends. In these trainings, we cover the importance not only of nuts-and-bolts preparedness, but of the mental aspect of emergencies as well. Scott B. Williams’ books are on my recommended reading list for trainees.

Scott B. Williams’ latest work Getting Out Alive, is an excellent contribution to the field of emergency preparedness literature.  Coming as it does, on the heels of his successful book Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late, you might expect Getting Out Alive to be targeted at the survivalist crowd – but it’s not. It’s a literal survival and preparedness book for people who don’t like thinking about emergencies and who certainly don’t like books about preparedness. And, in this, it excels.

I’ve often joked that civilization is a veneer. A veneer is a thin layer of wood bonded to a an inferior or less attractive substrate to improve its appearance. Very little furniture nowadays is, at its core, what it appears to be on its surface. Civilization is like that. It is a thin layer of civility held in place by the glue of modern conveniences and the ephemeral presence of authority. Take away our lights, our water, our sensory stimulation (television, radio, cell phones) and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Take away the deterrent of law enforcement or government and people revert to their more primal natures with alarming speed. The reverse is also true. Most people have become so far removed from their more primal selves that when they find themselves in situations like those in Williams’ latest book, they don’t know what to do with themselves either.

Getting Out Alive is a collection of potentially deadly scenarios that deftly demonstrate exactly how easy it is to find yourself between a rock and a hard spot with no hope of escape or rescue. Each one of Williams’ 13 deadly tales could begin with the words, “It all started innocently enough.” Each scenario presents plausible circumstances that any of us could find ourselves in without warning and presents potential options for escape and survival. Each scenario is accompanied by real life tales of other victims who endured similar survival situations – some of them made it out, many didn’t. Each scenario is also accompanied by snippets of wisdom related to the particular scenario circumstances (like forest fires, or being snowbound). Most valuable, however, are the Ten Tips for Survival that appear at the end of each scenario. If you read nothing else, be sure to read the Ten Tips at the end of each chapter. If you read nothing else out of this book, you’ll regret it, but at least you’ll be slightly better armed for an encounter with unforeseen circumstances.

The greatest strength of Getting Out Alive is that it demonstrates that any one of us can find ourselves in a bad place without any warning  –  yet it also explains exactly how simple it is to be prepared. This is a great book for your friends who think that emergency preparedness is for paranoid survivalists. It drives the point home that anyone can be a victim in a disaster or an emergency and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take steps to be prepared. Getting Out Alive is not a step by step guide to being prepared, it’s something more important – a book designed to change the way people think about emergencies.

I know that I get concerned that people I know and love just don’t think anything can happen to them.  And I know that not one of these people will tuck away an extra can of soup or roll of toilet paper or bother to pack a bug-out bag until they really buy into the idea that they are not immune to emergencies.  I can only hope that the light bulb goes on above their heads and they take measures to keep themselves safe.

If you’ve been worried that people you care about just aren’t ready for an emergency, Getting Out Alive would be a great gift that might just change the way they think.

As always, thanks for reading.

~L.