Updates: I’ve provided more links about Ebola facts below, as well as more perspective.
Things to consider while wading through the Ebola hysteria:
-- Fortunately, not everyone is afraid:
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-- More Americans have been killed by shootings in the city of Myrtle Beach this year than by Ebola. About 30,000 Americans every year die in gun violence; South Carolina is ranked in the Top 10 of such deaths, and three people died on one day this past Memorial Day weekend in Myrtle Beach, and more since - compared to one who has died of Ebola in all of America so far, a person who contracted it elsewhere.
-- We appointed an Ebola czar today in part because we have no Surgeon General because the nominee believes gun violence is a health crisis.
-- Yes, it is a serious issue. Yes, we must deal with it. Yes, we must be forward thinking. But we should not be carried away by irrational fear.
Here is one more thing to think about: In the 1980s, our initial response to the growing AIDS epidemic was beyond deplorable. We weren't somewhat late to the party, as can be argued about the Ebola outbreak and this administration. It wasn't just that we made mistakes trying to deal with it, as clearly was the case initially here, especially with the first patient in Dallas.
It is that when it came to AIDS, the top officials in our government, including the president, acted as though it didn't even exist, and not for days or weeks, but years. (The only real dispute is how many years it took the president to say the word. Four? Five? seven?) While that was going on, other leaders, including top officials in that White House, claimed gay people were getting their just desserts for living a "sinful" lifestyle. As far as we know right now, HIV is more contagious than Ebola.
Yet, even with that horrible response, as thousands of AIDS victims were dying, the country didn't collapse. That disease did not threaten mankind, as some are claiming about Ebola.
And once people knew how it was transmitted - and that many of their fellow human beings were needlessly dying - irrational fear and loathing turned into action.
Remember that the next time someone tries to convince you to join in the Ebola hysteria. Even when we get things horribly wrong on a deadly, contagious disease, all is not lost. And our response to Ebola today - even with all its flaws - as been light years ahead of how we responded to AIDS.
-- I'm not sure there has been a worst disease outbreak than the 1918 Spanish Flu, which actually started in the U.S. It killed upwards of 100 million people worldwide. It was much more contagious than Ebola because it was airborne. That was a worst-case scenario and mankind somehow survived - even when our knowledge of medicine was not nearly what it is today.
The Spanish Flu killed about 650,000 Americans. How many people in the U.S. will die from heart disease this year? Somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million.
But there is not hysteria about that, even though there are steps we can take to reduce that number.
At some point, this has got to stop, this fright-fest, this ever-present game that turns every crisis, and potential crisis, into just another political football in the U.S.
When will we grow up?
So far, one person in the U.S. has died from the deadly virus and only a few others have been diagnosed with the disease on our soil.
Compare that to the flu, which has killed upwards of 50,000 Americans in a single year. Our No. 1 killer, heart disease, kills 600,000 Americans every year. Yet, many of us balk at vaccines and flu shots and love fried food, all the while finding a way not to freak out about those things. (Oh, guns kill 30,000 of us a year.)
What’s worse, is that politicians feel pretty good scaring the crap out of people to gin up votes for November elections. There are Republicans implying Ebola is going to hitch a ride on the backs of ISIS members to cross the U.S.-Mexican border to kill us all and cause a collapse of the U.S. There are Democrats implying that Ebola’s worldwide spread was caused by Republican-led budget cuts.
And, unfortunately, the media has been stoking the flames on this, participating too much in the fear-mongering, not enough in critical information sharing.
Stop it. OK?
There is no widespread outbreak here and the only people in this country known to have contracted the virus were working closely with Ebola patients.
And it is not airborne and is harder to “catch” than AIDS and HIV or the flu or most other things that kill many more of us but we are not afraid of nonetheless.
The focus should be on making sure we prevent more of the missteps we’ve already seen occur in Dallas to make sure this thing remains contained and not a true crisis. But that’s harder to do when fear is driving people to demand things that could make things worse in the long run even if it makes some people feel better in the short-run.
For those willing to think rationally about this, here are some things to consider:
-- How is it transmitted? Take a look.
-- People like this ambulance driver in Liberia are on the front lines fighting this thing. Their sacrifice is an attempt to protect people there. But if they are successful, we will be safer here.
-- How public hysteria can become an all-too-real, and dangerous, side effect of this Ebola discussion
-- Scarier Than Ebola: How we ignore things we can control while freaking out over things that aren't widespread threats
-- Some in the media are trying to beat back the fear-mongering
-- Fighting fear with facts:
The best way to fight fear and stigma is with facts. The fact is that many viruses are easily transmitted, but Ebola is not one of them. You can get infected with the flu, the common cold, chicken pox and measles from someone who doesn’t even know that he or she is sick. That is one reason those viruses can spread so quickly. To get infected with Ebola, you need direct contact with the bodily fluids of a patient who is symptomatic of the disease — someone very sick indeed. This is not casual contact. Yes, a nurse and another health-care worker have caught it. In some Ebola outbreaks, 25 percent of cases Ebola are in the medical workers who are taking care of Ebola patients, and the rest are mostly seen in those who provide care in the home and who have touched the bodies of victims at funerals. You cannot get Ebola walking through an airport or speaking to someone with the disease.