ebola 3Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic is reporting this morning that the United States only has 19 Ebola-ready Level-4 Biocontainment beds in the entire country. This is a huge problem.

The UK is well set for an Ebola outbreak (sarcasm alert) We have TWO isolation units, but one is getting ‘redeveloped’ so it’s not available right now. Called High Security Infectious Diseases Units there are two in the country, each capable of taking two patients. One is at The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead North London, the other, the one getting a bit of a make-over, is at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, up in the north-east of England.

Four level 4 bio-containment beds between 69,000,000 people

In the US there are 4 units geared up to handle Ebola. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, has 3 beds. Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, has 10 beds. Emory Hospital, Atlanta has 3 beds and St Patricks Hospital, Missoula  has 3 beds (source)

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19 level four biocontainment beds for 317,000,000 people

I think we just found out why the government(s) are under-playing the situation. They simply do not have the facilities to cope with even a small outbreak. They are, in fact in exactly the same position as the dirt-poor hospitals in West Africa…there are not enough facilities to stop the spread of the disease if it gets out. The quality of care is better, but the availability of containment most likely isn’t.

Please notice that Texas Health Presbyterian is not on the list. Should we be concerned?

Maybe.

Wouldn’t it stand to reason that, without biolevel-4 containment, we are putting the community at risk?

There is a reason that the health care workers, previously sent here for treatment, were sent to Emory Hospital in Atlanta. Not only were the best facilities in place, but Atlanta is also the home of the CDC headquarters.

However, there was no opportunity for that same foresight with the patient in Dallas.

I should make it clear that the “19 beds” figure might not be completely accurate. I have tried to compile this data myself and it is frustrating (if you want to visit Lizzie’s article she has a complete list of her sources). You can find lists of facilities but trying to figure out what they are each capable of is not as easy. What I do know is that there are approximately 15 facilities in the country that fit biosafety level-4 guidelines. Some are in process of being built or refurbished and many are simply labs and not functioning hospitals. So even if the number quoted in the Underground Medic article is not accurate, I think it is very likely in the ballpark.

So why is level 4 biocontainment important?

The short answer to that is because the CDC says it is. Here is a direct quote from cdc.gov:

BSL-4 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-3 and is the highest level of biological safety. There are a small number of BSL-4 labs in the United States and around the world. The microbes in a BSL-4 lab are dangerous and exotic, posing a high risk of aerosol-transmitted infections. Infections caused by these microbes are frequently fatal and without treatment or vaccines. Two examples of microbes worked with in a BSL-4 laboratory include Ebola and Marburg viruses.

Again, please don’t confuse the number of labs with the number of hospitals or hospital beds. Whether we have 19 level-4 biocontainment beds or 99 there is still a potential problem here that no one wants to talk about.

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What happens if the contagion spreads to the point where we run out of beds?

Don’t think it can happen?

It has already happened in Africa. 3000 American soldiers have been sent to Liberia and one of their responsibilities will be to build new tent hospitals. All the hospital beds are full in some parts of West Africa now.

There is a lot of talk about our advanced medical technology in this country, but if we run out level-4 beds, or simply hospital beds in general, we might be needing some tent hospitals here as well. If we are putting patients in facilities that are not level-4, like Texas Health Presyterian in Dallas, then are we really following the CDC guidelines to properly contain Ebola?

I’m sure they ran the actual Ebola test at the level-4 CDC lab in Atlanta but what about the precautions for the disease spreading among hospital staff where the patient is receiving treatment? Do not forget that there are now well over 100 dead health care workers in Africa.

Biosafety level-4 facilities cost money. There are very few qualified labs and hospital beds in this country, or around the world, and no one wants to talk about that. This is one of the things that supposedly separates us from the medical technology of the third world countries.

But again, the difference between us and Liberia might be as few as 19 special hospital beds.

What happens if all of those beds are full?

Just something to think about. I won’t tell you that I am not trying to scare you, because I would be lying. Most people are too apathetic to prepare. I don’t want to inspire panic in anyone but I do hope to inspire a few people to get off the couch and prepare themselves for what could be in our future.

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I just bought a new shotgun plus about $300 worth of water and non-perishable food that we will use even if things don’t take a turn for the worse. I am not a prepper. We did the best we could with what we had to work with. I would respectfully suggest that you think about what you can do to prepare your own family.