Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More on the Ebola Threat and the Need to Prepare for Deliberate Spread of the Disease

In a previous post on the Ebola threat, I reminded us of our need to be prepared for crisis when I raised the specter of terrorists deliberately spreading Ebola in the States. I suggested that our lax border security could make it way too easy for enemies to bring infectious materials and infected people into the nation. Of course, the laxness that threatens us involves not just the borders that people walk across illegally, but the borders people fly across with proper documentation.

To better appreciate the potential for mayhem here, I recommend Marc Thiessen's article in the Washington Post, "A ‘Dark Winter’ of Ebola terrorism?" He points out that the ease of access Islamic extremists have to Ebola-afflicted regions in Africa and the willingness of some to sacrifice their lives to create disaster for others could lead to abundant opportunities to spread infection in the West, infecting many before authorities knew an attack was underway. The result could rapidly overwhelm our ability to respond and lead to chaos in many regions. I hope these are crazy concerns, but to me, it's crazy not to be prepared for that kind of trouble in this age. It is possible.

In addition to food and water, basic supplies to maintain hygiene can be vital in times of crisis, including lots of soap, rags, towels, extra blankets, and abundant plastic bags. Be prepared.

There might be other agents that terrorists will choose to use besides Ebola, but is there any reason to think that they won't eventually turn to deliberately induced epidemics to spread their terror? I suspect our politicians will continue to do what politicians tend to do, namely politics, and are not going to take this problem seriously until it is too late. But you can act now to be ready just in case.

Plastic bags: have you stopped to imagine just how useful these can be in times of chaos? Very valuable for hygiene and other purposes. Paper towels, wipes, rags, face masks, etc. Imagine different scenarios and be prepared. These "small means" can be the difference between life and death when epidemics strike.

What supplies do you feel are most important?


Jonathan A. Cavender said...

I have seen studies that the most likely secondary cause of death in a disaster is scurvy. Services are stopped, fresh fruits and vegetables are not available, and Vitamin C cannot be found.

You can pick up a bottle of Vitamin C pills for a little bit of nothing. I figure a year's supply includes a year's supply of vitamins -- particularly C.

Kevin Rex said...

Jeff, I follow your blog often and read with interest this piece on being prepared. As I read, I noticed you mentioned Islamic extremists and their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their cause. In the LDS temple, Mormons covenant with God to also sacrifice their lives. Is there a difference, other than you may think you truly believe God is in the Mormon temple and actually making a promise to you and you promising to sacrifice your life, if necessary? Many have asked me about my leaving the Church and why, but one of the big reasons is being unable to distinguish between an emotion and the Holy Ghost telling me something. The same holds true for the Islamic extremist, who firmly believes he or she is doing God's will when they sacrifice their life, for a reward in heaven. Likewise, an extremist Mormon would do so. I read with shame about a couple in California who sacrificed their entire retirement savings to fight against Proposition 8. This became a disaster for many members, like me, who are gay and ended up in psychological disarray because of their willingness to sacrifice "all that they have", as well as all of my Mormon family doing the same and feeling the same, all the while so many Mormon gays are in disaster mode. Can you see and understand this point of view? And yes, I believe in being prepared, I was a boy scout, after all, and my parents kept a strict 2-year supply so that, in June 1978, when I thought the world's apocalypse was happening because of a Mormon apostle's writings about blacks not getting the priesthood until everyone else had the chance first, so I felt "prepared". I mention that not in insult or discouragement, but to help you and others realize that having something constantly hanging over our heads about disaster makes it difficult to live in the here and now. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be prepared. I repeat, I'm not saying we shouldn't be prepared. I'm saying we shouldn't abandon reason and we should be willing to help fight the disease worldwide, not only protecting "our" borders. We live in a bigger world and that's why Mormonism needs to think beyond Utah, like you mentioned having someone speak in their native tongue recently at General Conference.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how anyone can talk about the spread of Ebola without mentioning the LDS missionaries in Africa who will be returning to the US.

Orbiting Kolob said...

Not just LDS missionaries, either. There must be plenty of other missionaries traveling to and from Africa.

Jeff asks, What supplies do you feel are most important? It doesn't qualify as "supplies," exactly, but I would add the crucial importance of infrastructure, especially (1) a robust public health system, from the CDC down to the level of the offices of school nurse and county public health nurse, and (2) adequate private hospital and other health facilities that can be mobilized in an emergency. In some of our poorer rural areas, this infrastructure is still wanting.

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada. I know what an effective public health service that can be rolled out to meet emergencies means. I've seen it in action and it's impressive.

The US doesn't have one and never will while private insurance companies are the brokers of health care.

If the entire GOP structure hadn't fought the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail from the beginning there might be a semblance of one now that a real health crisis could come to pass. If you don't feel ready to deal with Ebola thank your Republican elected officials

Anonymous said...

Anonymous from Canada,

I think that your perspective doesn't quite match what exists in the US. Public health emergencies have happened in the US and the federal government has responded. Public health emergencies do not have to be tied health care. Public health emergencies that have happened previously (and continue to do so) mostly take the form of natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, earthquakes, etc).

However, I think that the intent of this article was to get everyone thinking on what they would need to do to be prepared in case of a public health emergency because having supplies in your own home is much quicker to access than waiting for the government to come.


Orbiting Kolob said...

My point was not really to bash any particular political party, but to stress that there's a collective as well as an individual dimension here. Individually, we all need to be prepared to take care of ourselves; Jeff is completely right about that. But also, collectively, through our government, we need the kind of strong public health infrastructure I mentioned above. That includes universal access to health care, if only because we don't want large numbers of people who have symptoms but can't afford to visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Someone living right now in Liberia or Sierra Leone would be better off by following Jeff's advice. But they'd be much, much better off in the U.S. or Canada, where an epidemic is so much less likely to occur in the first place.

Who do you suppose is safer, the well-prepared, self-sufficient family in Liberia, or the average unprepared family in the U.S.? It's not so much a matter of "waiting for the government to show up" with disaster relief (as important as disaster relief can sometimes be) as a matter of preventing disaster in the first place.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The point, indeed, is not to turn this into a political argument. Nevertheless, little is gained by not considering salient facts and asking how they came to be.

The US doesn't have a comprehensive public health system and the reason is, largely, that one group has attempted since the early 90s to provide healthcare to the public and one group has stringently opposed it often relying on emotional and fear-based methods.

All this has resulted, at the time of greatest potential need, in a country that has spotty and sometimes nonexistent health care and little national oversight which, itself, has been ravaged by budget cuts.

Meanwhile, a country like France which has had national healthcare since the WWII era, sends doctors to the ravaged areas of Africa in an attempt to stem the health crisis there. And their doctors and nurses go, secure in the knowledge that 1) they will be cared for should be, 2) they have a comprehensive public health system and modalities to rely on. AND their healthcare workers, even in the trenches in Africa, have yet to have a volunteer contract Ebola.

Such is the opportunity and, in contrast, the consequence of neglect and opposition to healthcare for Americans

Jeff Lindsay said...

Kevin, thanks for dropping in. The willingness of humans to sacrifice for causes they feel are important can be scary when the causes are vile, but it's also one of the truly noble things about humanity. Without such sacrifices, there would be little freedom in the world. I marvel at the sacrifices parents make for their children, brave men and women make for the cause of freedom, inventors for great inventions, etc. Sadly, some people make sacrifices for terrible causes. That doesn't address some of the core issues you raise, but reminds us that life is complex and we are constantly struggling to choose good over evil, and to choose doing good in good ways rather than foolish or even evil ways.

bearyb said...


I cannot begin to imagine the pain you have gone through, so I will not attempt to respond to it. Thank you for your comment though.

It is true that we covenant to sacrifice all that we have for the kingdom, but I have yet to receive any request to actually do so.

The story of the couple in California is tragic. But we are told in the scriptures to not "run faster than we have strength," and that "blessed are those who give not because they have not, but would give if they had (paraphrased)."

We must be prudent about our circumstances when asked to give a "generous" fast offering, for example. Until the law of consecration is re-established, we shouldn't begin building towers before counting the cost.

And isn't there sufficient evidence that "Mormonism" thinks beyond Utah, when over half the Church population doesn't even reside in the US?

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