Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola Schmebola.

Last night I wrote about fear and politics, eventually aiming at the establishment and subsequent leveraging of the irrational fear of an Ebola outbreak in the US. It took until abut eight paragraphs in to really focus on the misplaced hysteria and the glee with which the media has fallen into line with the foolishness, as the essay examined fear-based politicking since 1990 in order to establish the premise. It’s a decent read if you’re up for it, but I’m sure a lot of people clicked out of it before getting to the discussion of the Ebola panic, so tonight, I’ll jump right into the virus that’s gone viral in America, Ebola.

The reason that no one in any city, in any town, in any rural setting has contracted the Ebola virus outside of a hospital is that it is only transmissible when an infected person is heavily symptomatic, and only when intimate contact with that person is made. The first case of Ebola in the US was a West African man who traveled to America to marry the woman he loved. He became ill and died, and two of the nurses ministering to him the hospital likewise contracted the disease. They have been sent to specialty hospitals and are expected to make a full recovery.

Understand that Ebola has never been passed from one individual to another in the United States outside of a hospital. Never. Not once. No city, now town, no rural setting. Two cases have been transmitted in the US, both in a Dallas hospital. If you are not a nurse and you live in the United States, you are in a zero percent risk group. If you are a nurse, you are in a virtually zero percent risk group. There are nearly three million licensed nurses in America. Two have contracted Ebola, both in environments in which their condition and the emergence of symptoms were monitored, ensuring them swift and effective treatment. Statistically, .00003% of nurses and .0000002% of Americans have contracted the disease. Remember also, no one who has ever contracted Ebola in the United States has ever died from it. No one. Ever. Nobody.

Here are some more statistics. In any given year, you have a one in 1,900,000 chance of being killed by lightning. Remember that no one has ever contracted Ebola and died in America, so it is impossible to calculate a comparative statistical likelihood against a sampling of zero. The likelihood of contracting Ebola then, is one in 175,000,000. If you are not a nurse, those numbers go through the roof. The obvious question then becomes, are you afraid of lightning?

Most people come inside during electrical storms. This reduces risk of getting hit by lightning greatly. Avoiding the feces, urine, blood and semen of people with 103 degree temperatures is akin to coming in out of the rain in a lightning storm. It reduces your risk immensely. I’d tell you an Ebola joke at this point, but you probably won’t get it. Not original, sadly, but quite astute, and I think, pretty funny.

The World Health Organization recently declared Nigeria to be Ebola-free. Zero instances currently. If Nigeria can win the fight with Ebola absent the benefit of the mighty Atlantic separating it from its source and a per capita income discrepancy of about a thousand percent, we have no reason to jump onto a panic bandwagon. The ridiculousness of this is mind-boggling.

Compare this to American reaction to the AIDS epidemic. It took Ronald Reagan six years and 20,000 deaths as president to even mention it, and this was a disease that could be transmitted when the carrier was asymptomatic. I don’t put this up as a model for how a leader and how a nation should react to a health risk, rather I use it as a benchmark for measuring the ludicrousness of the prevailing national attitude toward the non-outbreak of Ebola.

I suppose we get what we deserve, and as long as we breathe life into this non-story with the vigor we have been, news programs seeking your eyeballs will continue to serve it up as though it were an actual major story. It isn’t. It is a major story in West Africa, and if we want to ensure a world free of the virus, we would be committing resources to stop it in its tracks at the source. The best way to make it an actual story in America, which it currently is not, is to continue to sit on our hands and do not much about it, as we have been since the crisis erupted in West Africa.

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