Outside of three West African nations, which are being ravaged by Ebola, the health threat from Ebola still remains small. Am I dismissing the risk of further spread? No. Am I dismissing the fact the numbers infected are still exponentially increasing? No. Am I even claiming that Ebola won’t return to the US and spread globally? No. What I am saying is that for those of us in the US, the biggest danger Ebola poses to the masses in the near term is economic. In fact, if you want to best prepare for an Ebola pandemic, you should prepare for an economic collapse, which will affect you long before you run a real risk of infection.
To begin, for those of you not privy to experiencing the epidemic first hand in West Africa, let me dispel myths and identify facts. First, let me tell you that Ebola is very real contrary to ridiculous claims I have read online. We can argue about its genesis, its source, and how it spreads, but the fact that it is a real disease killing thousands is not in question. The numbers of infected and dead being reported in West Africa are not even remotely close to reality and the disease is still spreading at just below an exponential rate.
Second, the reason Ebola is spreading like wildfire in those nations is primarily because of the near total absence of anything remotely close to modern medical care and cultural biases and not because of it being super contagious at this point. The healthcare workers infected while treating patients in Africa were sickened because they were trying to treat mobs of people in tents while essentially wearing an old pair of nitrile gloves and a face mask while patients vomited blood on them. Further, the nurses infected in Texas were not properly trained, were not properly suited, and did not properly decontaminate before removing the protective garments they did don. Furthermore, if Ebola was super contagious, then all of the healthcare workers in Atlanta, Bethesda, and Omaha plus the doctors in Europe and all of the pilots and flight medics would have long since been infected. In fact, if donning protective garments and effective decontamination didn’t work, all of your healthcare workers would now be sickened or dead. The reason they haven’t become infected is because they did take proper precautions.
Third, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Government are incompetent. The CDC is an over funded, bloated bureaucracy that has proven itself unable to effectively deal with Ebola. The CDC should have been out in front of this disease and properly prepared health care workers to deal with any potential patients. Further, the Obama Administration is derelict in protecting Americans and has put in place wholly inadequate “screening” measures at US ports of entry not to mention completely leaving the border wide open and unprotected. Adding insult to injury, President Obama has recently created an Ebola Czar post, which sounds quite banana republic, and appointed a totally unqualified political hack with zero medical experience to run it. Do you feel confident yet?
Fourth, and most pertinent for our readers, many of the people currently dying in West Africa are not just dying from Ebola, but a host of other ailments and issues to even include starvation due to the economy being in vapor lock. For example, in Liberia, no one shows up for work now and no one risks going out to buy goods out of a very real fear of the disease. This has in fact kept many safe from infection, but this has also led to a collapse in supply chains of essential goods and services. Now not only can one not find food, but they certainly can’t find medical care for even the most basic of ailments. This has led to plunging GDP, food shortages, infrastructure failure, martial law, and a total collapse of their economies. The sick, old, very young, and otherwise infirm are always the ones to suffer first and the most from these chaotic conditions and there is no respite anywhere in sight.
West Africa is not unique globally in its poverty or poor quality of healthcare. Ebola can and most likely will spread to other underdeveloped nations if Ebola’s spread is not extinguished by mid-November. If it does, it will vapor lock economy after economy. As each economic domino falls, it will begin a cascade that cripples neighboring economies. Throughout this cascade, the effects felt globally will become more pronounced. At first it might be a reduction in some special import such as coca for chocolate, but then it may be a rare earth used in cell phone manufacture or then even oil production. Even if not a single new case of Ebola touches the US, the US economy will be hit hard by this cascade. For example, airlines have already registered palpable losses in revenue from a reduction in air travel. Can you imagine what would happen if Ebola broke out across the Middle East post Hajj? How would the world’s markets respond and would oil production be reduced sending prices skyrocketing?
By mid-November we should all know whether Ebola will become a pandemic or a close call. If indeed the epidemic is still spreading at or near exponential levels with no vaccine in sight, then the world will face a pandemic that vapor locks global trade and collapses the global economy. Even if the US healthcare system can keep up with sporadic patients, we will continue to be peppered with new infections coming in from all corners of the globe that will spread enough fear and panic to cause major disruptions and shutdowns across the US. With an already faltering economy and huge debt bubble, even a prolonged Ebola “scare” could be enough to push the US off the economic cliff. You can gamble that all will be well or you can make last minute preparations. Be forewarned, if you choose the former and are wrong, the consequences will be dire.
In the event Ebola goes global and is not contained by mid-November, what I have witnessed in Africa is the need to be prepared for what amounts to an economic collapse of massive proportions. People can effectively avoid infection by avoiding people, but they cannot avoid the consequences of not being prepared to be self-sufficient until the epidemic has burned itself out. This will be worse than a purely economic situation where money is devalued or worthless, but people can still interact to trade and barter. It will be a situation where goods and services simply are not available and everyone seeks to avoid any contact with other humans. This freezes all trade. No one comes to your house when you need something fixed. Stores are closed. Schools cannot operate. Hospitals are in lock down. Mass transit hubs are restricted. High tech infrastructure quickly degrades and fails from lack of maintenance. Food and other essential supplies like gasoline will dwindle as truckers refuse to enter population centers and people can and will starve for the first time in generations. This all sets the stage for martial law, forced mass quarantines, and civil disorder. If you think it can’t happen here I am here to tell you that we are just one viral mutation away from disaster. Even if Ebola burns out, let it be a warning…a harbinger of how vulnerable we are as a species to disease and a nation to collapse. Pray that this disease is brought under control and stopped in West Africa because if it spreads and gains a foothold even in neighboring Nigeria, very tough times are ahead.
By Guiles Hendrik
October 21, 2014