10th Doctor: Look, clean. Look, if we’d been touched, we’d be dead. So how’s it going up here? What’s the status?
Clovis: There’s nothing but silence from the other wards. I think we’re the only ones left. And I’ve been trying to override the quarantine. If I can trip a signal over to New New York, they can send a private executive squad.
10th Doctor: You can’t do that. If they forced entry, they’d break quarantine.
Clovis: I am not dying in here.
10th Doctor: We can’t let a single particle of disease get out. There is ten million people in that city. They’d all be at risk. Now, turn that off!
Clovis: Not if it gets me out.
Doctor Who, New Earth 2006
You can’t turn on a cable channel or a news network without finding someone talking about Ebola, a scare here, an exposure there, a bad joke etc etc etc. It is the only topic in town. This is because people are afraid and unlike the AIDS “epidemic” they have to some degree, cause to be.
One of the realities of AIDS in the west for a person to catch the disease, even during its hayday in the 80’s you had to be pretty much part of a specific group:
You had to be a heroin addict sharing needles or having sex with a heroin addict who was sharing needles
You had to be promiscuous bi/gay man, or having sex with a promiscuous bi/gay man (that’s what killed Gunsmoke actress Amanda Blake)
As the disease progressed sex with any promiscuous person involved risk but in the end if you weren’t sleeping around or shooting drugs barring carelessness in a hospital you had a better chance of winning a $10,000,000 lottery than catching AIDS and if you’re avoiding drugs and promiscuity that’s still very true.
Ebola is different its spread by common everyday behavior, simple contact. Also consider the symptoms direct from the CDC site:
Symptoms of Ebola include
- Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Now consider the symptoms for the flu from the same site:
The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
and this note concerning the common cold vs the flu:
it can be difficult (or even impossible) to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.
I’d be willing to bet that everybody reading this post has had contact with a person who has at least one of these symptoms over the last 2-3 weeks.
Given that fact one might consider all this coverage and all this panic over Ebola to be justifiable.
You’d be wrong
Consider: Ebola has been around for 50 years. here is the CDC map of confirmed cases
if you look at the facts it’s pretty clear. Before 2014 there were only 2365 confirmed cases of Ebola in all in Africa (population 1.1 billion) since 1076. Even with the current “epidemic” there are only 4655 confirmed cases of the disease and of those a total of 3, count em 3 cases that have been reported outside of Africa that weren’t from lab accidents. 1 from the infected traveler who died in Texas and 2 from healthcare workers to treated Ebola patients 1 at the Texas Hospital where the late patient was treated & one in Madrid.
Moreover thanks a combination of government institutions used as political footballs and sheer incompetence, the people who could get out the message that general panic isn’t warranted can’t do it. The low info public aren’t getting the message and the informed intelligent public just doesn’t trust them anymore: As Glenn Reynolds put it:
After so many lies and failures, we’d be fools to trust them.
The problem is, we’re heading into what looks like a dark period, one when trust in government will be very important to dealing successfully with the many challenges we face. But trust in government comes primarily from one thing: a government that is worthy of trust.
So given we’re working with:
- A disease whose symptoms mimic those of common diseases
- A government that’s incompetent
- A sensationalistic agenda driven media
- A narcissistic culture
- And an uninformed public
It’s a wonder that we don’t already have panic in the streets.
Final thought we could, in fact, easily stop the threat of Ebola in America by the following steps
1. Quarantining the one person in the US with the disease
2. Quarantining the people in the US who have had contact or potential contact with infected people for three weeks to see if they develop the disease and further quarantining any of said people who do
Combine this with restricting travel from infected nations and/or aggressively screening travelers from or in areas of known infection and viola the risk of a US Ebola outbreak goes practically to nil
Any reasonably competent government could implement these steps and calm the fears an informed educated public.
Isn’t it a shame we don’t have either?
Update: The count goes to 4:
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