I’m pretty much the opposite of a Prepper. Although I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where even TV commercials constantly drill into your head the importance of being prepared for The Big One, I tend to be anything but prepared for natural disasters. Not that it isn’t important. It’s good common sense to keep certain things on hand in case of earthquakes, or alien invasions, or the zombie apocalypse. For example:
- Flashlights / Lanterns (Great! We have about a half-dozen of these)
- Extra Batteries (All AAs, which are great for WiiU remote controls, bad for dead flashlights)
- A Well-Stocked First Aid Kit (Mine has exactly 3 band-aids and some expired Jr. Tylenol)
- Drinking water (Do toilets count? Hey, if we were dying of thirst…)
- Non-Perishable Foods (Humongous supply of Ramen noodles — check!)
By contrast, the rest of my relatives tend to be extreme Preppers. No, I am not exaggerating. I’m pretty sure that a few of them have actually built underground bunkers. They are often perplexed by my lack of concern that any minute, we could all be in a state of emergency due to North Korean bombs or falling meteors.
My mother called the other day in a panic. “Do you still have that stack of face masks I sent you?” she asked. “You may need to buy more. And when you get a chance, go over to Costco and stock up on food, just in case”
I groaned. “What for this time?” Silly me. Didn’t I know about the impending plague of Ebola Virus? Hadn’t I heard that our government had allowed for the return of two very ill American doctors who were going to spread the disease to the rest of us? Ebola! Seal your windows with plastic! Keep your kids home from school! Acquire weapons! This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill.
Yes, I have heard about the tragic outbreak of Ebola Virus in West Africa. Yes, I have been following the news reports about the deadly disease. According to dozens of popular media sources, Ebola is highly contagious, and has a mortality rate as high as 90%. If it is not well-contained, then the illness could spread around the world, wiping out much of the human population.
But here’s the thing: Ebola is not that contagious. It is not spread by coughing and sneezing like the flu or common cold, but by absorbing the bodily fluids of an infected person. (Yes, I realize that this is exactly how people become zombies on The Walking Dead, but that’s beside the point).
“…to become infected in the first place, a person’s mucous membranes, or an area of broken skin, must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, urine, saliva, semen or stools, or materials contaminated with these fluids such as soiled clothing or bed linen. By contrast, respiratory pathogens such as those that cause the common cold or flu are coughed and sneezed into the air and can be contracted just by breathing or touching contaminated surfaces, such as door knobs. A pandemic flu virus can spread around the world in days or weeks and may be unstoppable whereas Ebola only causes sporadic localized outbreaks that can usually be stamped out.” (Scientific American, July 30, 2014)
Ebola is an unfortunate and devastating illness. I am hopeful that scientists will soon devise a cure, and am encouraged by the recent reports that the American patients are showing signs of recovery. And I will continue to make efforts to live as healthy a life as possible, by eating healthy, exercising, washing hands well, and getting plenty of sleep to keep my immune system strong. But I refuse to seal my windows with plastic, stock up on weapons, or build an underground bunker. Yeesh! This is not World War Z, people.