With the deaths of more than 4,000 people and an estimated 8,000 cases (at this time), the Ebola epidemic has affected three West African countries in particular. But Ebola could also spread to become a pandemic without geographical limitation. There are three key questions to be answered:
- What should you know about Ebola?
- What basic measures should people take to avoid contracting Ebola?
- How can organisations continue to function if an Ebola outbreak occurs?
What Should You Know about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)?
- Ebola is deadly. It attacks humans by causing internal organs to liquefy and bleed out through the body.
- There is currently no standard vaccine against Ebola. Experimental vaccines are under development, but stocks are limited.
- Ebola is transmitted by contact, not through the air. Contact with the body fluids of infected individuals and open cuts or sores favour infection.
- Ebola incubates before killing. Incubation periods are up to 21 days. Initial symptoms may be mistaken for flu or malaria.
Basic Measures to Avoid Ebola Infection
Faced with the threat of Ebola, common sense and measures against pandemics are the first essential requirements. Keeping hands clean with soap and water, and sneezing or coughing into your sleeve if you have to, are two basic ways to prevent disease from spreading. Physical contact with anybody returning from an area affected by Ebola (such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) should be avoided at least until it is certain that there is no risk of infection.
Pandemic Planning for Enterprises and Organisations
Planning for such a possibility should be done or updated now. Basic measures include:
- Ensure home-working is possible with suitable remote access and communications facilities
- For employees that work on site, separate each functional group into two physically isolated groups if possible for safety and for backing each other up
- Define procedures for checking employee health and for handling any suspected cases of infection.
- Be ready to counsel and help employees’ families if necessary
- Ensure you have enough stocks of materials (your suppliers may be affected) and set your customers’ expectations appropriately too.