One of the ways Ebola kills people is from dehydration associated with diarrhea. The methods for treating diarrhea are well known, and they can be administered at home by untrained people.
Unfortunately there is a lack of real information getting through to those most at risk. They don’t know what they should do to save their own lives from dehydration. Below is an example of information from the primary authority The World Health Organization (WHO). It doesn’t tell the reader what rehydration salts are, where to get them, how much to take, and how to take them.
Cholera is an easily treatable disease. The prompt administration of oral rehydration salts to replace lost fluids nearly always results in cure. In especially severe cases, intravenous administration of fluids may be required to save the patient’s life.
Left untreated, however, cholera can kill quickly following the onset of symptoms. This can happen at a speed that has incited fear and paralyzed commerce throughout history. Although such reactions are no longer justified, cholera continues to be perceived by many as a deadly and highly contagious threat that can spread through international trade in food.
That was the cure for cholera from the highly respected WHO web page and from the Mayo Clinic.
Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours, even in previously healthy people.
Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialized countries. The last major outbreak in the United States occurred in 1911. But cholera is still present in Africa, Southeast Asia, Haiti and central Mexico. The risk of cholera epidemic is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.
Cholera is easily treated. Death results from severe dehydration that can be prevented with a simple and inexpensive rehydration solution.
When people are sick they don’t have the time to wander around the internet with useless generalities as found in the quotes above; they want to know what to do right now, and how to do it.
After some searching I found the doctor’s formula for Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). This would be helpful information if the sick person could read, knew what the chemical formulas meant, had access to these chemicals and had the measuring equipment to get the proportions right. Few people can use this information.
(g/L) grams per liter — table salt 2.6, glucose 13.5, potassium chloride 1.5, trisodium citrate 2.9, and apparently a standard zinc “vitamin” pill.
Below is the at-home preparation Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), a more user-friendly interpretation, that would be similar to what a doctor would prescribe. Of course bedridden cholera and Ebola victims will have little access to a doctor but most will have access to salt, sugar and water.
An example of a home formula is — 1 level teaspoon of salt, 8 level teaspoons of sugar, and (optionally) 4 ounces (113g) of orange juice; mixed into 1 liter of clean water. If the water source is questionable, it should be boiled for 10 minutes and allowed to cool before mixing the solution, but dirty water is better than no water.
What is provided in that last box is advice that would make a real difference for acute diarrhea and would save many sick people’s lives. It is easier for an ordinary person to do because the terms are well known, and the materials are readily available. The reason this solution works so well at reducing dehydration deaths is because the intestine needs both salt and sugar to pass water through the intestinal walls into the body.
Here is another official treatment for disease, but it isn’t very helpful either.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Treatment for Ebola
“No FDA-approved vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) is available for Ebola.
Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can significantly improve the chances of survival:
- Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
- Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
- Treating other infections if they occur
Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years, possibly longer. It isn’t known if people who recover are immune for life or if they can become infected with a different species of Ebola. Some people who have recovered from Ebola have developed long-term complications, such as joint and vision problems.”
The CDC’s three treatments don’t give an infected person a clue as to what they can do to save their life. They don’t have needles, intravenous fluids, or the slightest idea of how to use them. They have no clue as to how to maintain oxygen status or blood pressure other than to keep breathing. They have no suggestion on treating other infections if they occur. The only possibility of self-help is with maintaining their electrolytes (body salts), but there is no suggestion as to how they can do it.
A home treatment a kit could be prepared and sent home with the victim or with their caregiver. The kit would contain picture instructions, enough salt, sugar and a liter jar. This kit would be helpful for all forms of diarrhea. The kit could be given to everyone in an infected area, so they could start treating themselves at the first sign of diarrhea.
At the first sign of feeling sick or hot begin drinking the salt and sugar solution. The sugar and salt keep the water inside you and slows diarrhea. When people get too dry they die. Vomiting and diarrhea prevent water from getting into your system, so drink enough water to maintain your normal body weight. The problem is that regular fresh water doesn’t go through the intestinal wall when a person is sick with diarrhea. A liter of water with 1 teaspoon salt and 8 teaspoons sugar does go through the intestinal wall and rehydrates the body. Drink enough to maintain comfort.
What I recommend for hospitals if they must send feverish patients home is to give the victims a kit to help them survive. The kit below is good for the first ten days. Diarrhea fluids must be replaced and the list below assumes a flow rate of 4 liters that must be replaced.
The Probaway 10-day Ebola survival kit.
- Into a 1 liter jar of water mix 1 teaspoon of salt, 8 teaspoons of sugar and drink as needed until diarrhea is over. Below is based on 10 days of 4 liters per day.
- 1 teaspoon salt (6 grams) 4 times per day times 40 = 240 grams of salt
- 8 teaspoons sugar (48 x .8 = 38 grams) 4 times 40 = 1.5 kilograms of sugar
- and if available citrus 2.9 grams 4 times 40 = 116 grams trisodium citrate
- and a vitamin 1 time per day, if available 10 standard vitamin pills with zinc
- an instruction paper showing in pictures how to prepare the life-saving drink.
- If possible include a plastic spoon the size in the pictures in the handout.
- All of this is contained in a large plastic bag.
They must have a home supply of water, and that will mean 4 liters a day or access to 40 liters minimum of drinking water. If possible, a caregiver should monitor their progress.