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I have just finished reading Paul Rahe’s post “The Centers for Disease Control Loses Its Grip.” His post — and others like it on Ricochet — and the World War III style headlines I have been seeing elsewhere, prompted me to reply.
For the last several years, we’ve been in the midst of an epidemic of zombie-related literature, films, and television. Much of it is terrible. Some of it is good. Some of it is excellent. Zombie outbreaks take the form of a disease epidemic. It’s slow burning at first, but then hits everyone like a tsunami and wipes out all of civilization.
This epidemic of zombie media taps into a fear that lingers in the back of our minds: that this level of material prosperity — never before seen in human history — must be a passing phenomenon. That the other shoe must drop at some point. It could be a war with the Russians. It might be global warming. It might be the Second Coming. It might be the zombie apocalypse. But at some point, this decadent, comfortable world of ours with its hot showers, selfies, and decadent boutique pet foods must come crashing down when everything hits the fan.
That may well happen at some point, but Ebola won’t be the cause. Ebola isn’t the super plague that is going to wipe us out. It will rage in west Africa, in the Third World, but it will not wipe out America. Ebola isn’t the Black Death. It’s not Polio. It’s not Spanish Flu.
It’s also something we understand pretty well. Contrary Dr. Rahe’s piece, Ebola isn’t some giant question mark. We know a lot about it. We know how it spreads. Insinuations to the contrary are deeply counterproductive and unnecessarily induce fear.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever. In its final stages, your body melts down and you begin bleeding because your organs begin hemorrhaging. It’s so horrific because you begin bleeding from your eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Everywhere. It’s highly contagious at that point — and if you’re attending to someone in that stage — there’s a good chance you’re going to get covered in blood. That’s why you wear protective gear.
Ah, but this health care worker was wearing that gear and still caught it! They sure did. It’s easy to do.
If you’re covered in infected blood, and then take off your gear, and get a little bit on you, and unthinkingly wipe your eye, that’s contact. That’s all it takes. That’s what they call protocol breach. That’s how it happens. It’s horrible and scary, but it’s not mysterious.
A travel ban is also a terrible idea. First of all, most US air carriers stopped going to places with Ebola months ago. Second of all, in order to accomplish the goal of a quarantine effectively, you’d also have to stop flights from any place that flies to an infected country — and to be safe — from any place that flies to any place that flies to an infected country. At that point, you might as well just shut down all air travel. That is a hysterical overreaction to what we are told is a gigantic epidemic that has caused exactly two cases in the US in the ten months it’s been raging.
A ban like that has the potential to make things worse. It would make it harder for aid workers, health care workers, and anyone else who wants to help to travel to and from infected areas, ensuring that the crisis continues to burn on. It’s an irrational, unnecessary, and heavy-handed response it’s not hard to find out why.
Let’s just say this: Barack Obama is a bad president. He’s terrible at his job. Most government agencies are terrible at their jobs. But some government agencies — given and abundance of cash and talented people — can accomplish great things. God help me, but even I’ll admit that government agencies can sometimes do good work.
So, remember: unless you touch the blood or vomit of someone with Ebola, you’re not going to get it. You don’t need to be afraid. Panic is unwarranted.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.