Ebola: Fear and Hysteria

Every virus, by virtue of its nature, is serious and must not be taken lightly. As many people are likely to recall, the eminent biologist and Nobel Laureate, Joshua Lederberg once wrote, “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.”

Ebola is perhaps the most dangerous of today’s known viruses with a fatality rate of up to 80%. So it is understandable that the poorly informed, including many elected officials of both parties, are running around claiming “Ebola is coming! Ebola is coming! Close the borders! Institute a travel ban against West Africa. Quarantine, well…everyone!”

The news media, particularly those dedicate to a 24-hour cycle, are much to blame. In what can only be regarded as inhumanity and self-centeredness, more hours have been wasted and more time lost agonizing over a non-existent problem in the U.S. than over the loss of life and humanitarian crisis in Africa. If the media represents and reflects the people of this country, then Americans are more egocentric and ignorant than I thought. But…Ebola is coming!

What began as a legitimate fear quickly grew to panic then morphed into irrational hysteria. Yes, I know that’s redundant. All hysteria is irrational. But stop for a moment and consider the 80% death rate. In the affected countries it actually averages out to about 50% and it is highest in areas without sufficient care. But…Ebola is coming!

In the United States, a country with a population of over 316 million, as of today only two people have contracted the disease. As one comedian pointed out, that is exactly one half the number of people who have been married to Larry King. Again, only two have contracted the disease. And both of them have recovered and are now virus free. But…Ebola is coming!

Let’s contrast this virus with influenza. While for many reasons, no accurate average can be determined, over a thirty year period as few as 3,000 and as many as 40,000 Americans have died of the flu—in a single season. But…Ebola is coming!

However, Ebola is a very difficult disease to catch. In the language of the movies, it is not airborne. It is spread through immediate contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person—as, for example, vomit and diarrhea. Most of us avoid those at all cost unless we are tending to infants and sick children. But…Ebola is coming!
Or is it?

The virus is not roaming our neighborhoods like a genetically modified organism from a B-rated horror or science fiction movie. We are just as likely to be invaded by Sigourney Weaver’s aliens as we are to contract Ebola. So what can we learn from the current scare?

  1. There is no Ebola crisis in the United States. I hate to sound cynical, but those with the courage to be honest know that if there were such a crisis here, we would already have a vaccine. As it is, the crisis is in West Africa.
  2. Increased resources (financial and personnel) are needed in the affected countries to fight the disease. Note to the Pentagon: We might need some of your money for healing.
  3. Politicians should lead, not pander. They should stand by their principles. If John McCain despises appointing officials dubbed “czars”, then he should not have called for one to fight Ebola.
  4. The media should try reporting the news instead of making it up and playing to the ratings.
  5. Obama is America’s first Black. That means Ebola is his fault. He was not in Dallas when Tomas Duncan arrived from Liberia. He was not at Presbyterian Hospital when the two nurses contracted the disease after treating Mr. Duncan. Still, it’s Obama’s fault. Donald Trump and FOX News told me so.

Maybe America should be more afraid of Donald Trump and FOX News than Ebola. Donald and FOX are coming! Donald and FOX are coming!