So What Ever Happened to Ebola?

 

HeathrowEbolaIt doesn’t seem all that long ago that it was “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times,” does it?

If you search–hard–you can find the latest:

Half a year ago, the political world was in a tizzy over the prospect of a massive outbreak of Ebola finding its way from West Africa to the United States. Congress hastily put together hearings and managed to find billions of dollars to help combat a disease that had become a focal point of the closing weeks of the 2014 campaigns.

Today, almost no one in the U.S. is talking about Ebola. The disease has been relatively contained in West Africa, and its only appearances state-side are infected patients brought over for treatment by health officials.

Not only was this predictable, it was predicted. Michael Fumento, for example, wrote extensively about the way the WHO was ginning up the numbers:

… the WHO is fibbing, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as I discuss in great detail in Inference. They have been all along. The WHO has called it the “worst health crisis in modern times.” Worse than the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19, which extrapolated to today’s world population would mean 60-150 million deaths? Worse than AIDS with about 35 million deaths? Yet CDC Director Thomas Frieden also compared the Ebola outbreak to AIDS. …

Only half the cases in the October 22 report are confirmed. At the very least, cases have hit a plateau—six weeks is no anomaly. And they flattened just before the WHO hit the panic button, insisting among other things it needed a billion-dollar infusion. (Remember this when they inevitably claim their projections proved false only because they made them so with their own super-human actions.)

There’s a lesson here about hysteria and the public’s susceptibility to it, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten. The swift containment of the epidemic and its equally-swift total disappearance from public consciousness is outstandingly good, recent evidence of the degree to which people are prone to panic of this kind.

It’s also irrefragable evidence of the tendency of large, publicly-funded bureaucracies to exploit and profit from mass hysteria.

Can anything be done about it, I wonder?

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There are 59 comments.

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  1. Jason Rudert Member

    If anything is to be done about this hysteria, it needs to start here at Ricochet.

    • #1
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Jason Rudert:If anything is to be done about this hysteria, it needs to start here at Ricochet.

    Anyone here suffering from it?

    • #2
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:06 AM PDT
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  3. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Jason Rudert:If anything is to be done about this hysteria, it needs to start here at Ricochet.

    There was a fair amount of Ebola hysteria on Ricochet, if my memory is correct.

    • #3
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:10 AM PDT
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  4. Jason Rudert Member

    Yeah. Things may have cooled off enough that people won’t jump all over you for this, but basically we were told that we were all going to be shooting blood out of our [orifices] by Valentine’s Day. And our blood (and other bodily fluids) would be on Obama’s hands.

    • #4
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:13 AM PDT
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  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Misthiocracy:

    Jason Rudert:If anything is to be done about this hysteria, it needs to start here at Ricochet.

    There was a fair amount of Ebola hysteria on Ricochet, if my memory is correct.

    Well, this is a teachable moment, then. Hysterics, fess’ up. You were played.

    • #5
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Jason Rudert:Yeah. Things may have cooled off enough that people won’t jump all over you for this, but basically we were told that we were all going to be shooting blood out of our [orifices] by Valentine’s Day. And our blood (and other bodily fluids) would be on Obama’s hands.

    I don’t remember this: was Obama sticking his hands in corpses or something?

    • #6
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:18 AM PDT
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  7. Valiuth Member

    But we need to shut down the borders! Ban all travel to Liberia! Quarantine everyone for 5 months!

    Claire Berlinski:

    Jason Rudert:If anything is to be done about this hysteria, it needs to start here at Ricochet.

    Anyone here suffering from it?

    I guess you missed it, being in France and all but the Conservative News/Commentary sphere was Grand Central for panicking about Ebola. I think mostly out of a reflexive need to pile on even more failure onto the Obama administration.

    A few of us here took the position that this was all excessively premature, and that complaints about unpreparedness were rather extreme.

    • #7
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  8. Jason Rudert Member

    Sorry if I’m being obtuse, Claire. I know you don’t have all the time in the world, but search for ebola here on Ricochet and read through some of the threads that went on last fall. If I can find one that’s particularly representative, I’ll link to it.

    • #8
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  9. Marion Evans Inactive

    I might point out tactfully that some people on Ricochet, including a certain Professor PAR, were full participants in the hysteria and quite prolific in their postings about the need for quarantines.

    • #9
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:20 AM PDT
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  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Jason Rudert:Sorry if I’m being obtuse, Claire. I know you don’t have all the time in the world, but search for ebola here on Ricochet and read through some of the threads that went on last fall. If I can find one that’s particularly representative, I’ll link to it.

    Yes, I’ve now had a look. Well, this one’s settled. The “Calm down, folks” side decisively won the argument.

    • #10
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  11. Mike H Coolidge

    Being an Ebola skeptic was heavily derided, because you know, what if we were wrong?

    Obviously, the only rational reaction was to flip out like the world was about to end because there was some theoretical sliver of a chance that it might, maybe.

    Try here.

    • #11
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Mike H:Being an Ebola skeptic was heavily derided, because you know, what if we were wrong?

    Obviously, the only rational reaction was to flip out like the world was about to end because there was some theoretical sliver of a chance that it might, maybe.

    On this one, it wasn’t just a matter of temperament. The WHO’s numbers showed that the epidemic had peaked–even as the hysteria was peaking. It was basic epidemiology. No reason to invite exposure to Ebola, obviously, but certainly no reason for that kind of panic and massive spending.

    • #12
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:33 AM PDT
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  13. Man With the Axe Inactive

    I respectfully disagree with all this ex post deriding of the “hysteria.” Ebola was in fact an epidemic that can spread like wild fire. A man with Ebola came here from Liberia and died. He infected several nurses. They also might have died. Without travel restrictions other infected individuals may very well have come here or to other countries, both in and out of Africa.

    I suggest that it was that very “hysteria” that led to the kind of strict measures that forestalled the epidemic. Ebola does seem to run its course, but there is nothing special about Liberians that makes them susceptible. Americans can also be ebola victims if we do not go to great lengths to restrain the travel of infected persons and quarantine them once they are here. We have no way of knowing, ex post, whether we dodged a bullet.

    That said, there did not seem to be any reason for Americans to change their behavior during the epidemic, other than to cancel travel plans to infected areas.

    • #13
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:38 AM PDT
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  14. Marion Evans Inactive

    Man With the Axe:I respectfully disagree with all this ex post deriding of the “hysteria.” Ebola was in fact an epidemic that can spread like wild fire. A man with Ebola came here from Liberia and died. He infected several nurses. They also might have died. Without travel restrictions other infected individuals may very well have come here or to other countries, both in and out of Africa.

    I suggest that it was that very “hysteria” that led to the kind of strict measures that forestalled the epidemic. Ebola does seem to run its course, but there is nothing special about Liberians that makes them susceptible. Americans can also be ebola victims if we do not go to great lengths to restrain the travel of infected persons and quarantine them once they are here. We have no way of knowing, ex post, whether we dodged a bullet.

    That said, there did not seem to be any reason for Americans to change their behavior during the epidemic, other than to cancel travel plans to infected areas.

    “Ebola was in fact an epidemic that can spread like wild fire.”

    Not at all the case. It is difficult to communicate, which is why even in W Africa, the most dire predictions turned out to be way off the mark.

    “That very “hysteria” that led to the kind of strict measures that forestalled the epidemic.”

    Not really because the measures called for by the hysterics (travel bans, quarantines etc.) were completely ignored.

    • #14
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Man With the Axe:nothing special about Liberians that makes them susceptible.

    Sure there is. Lousy health care, primitive sanitation, and a proclivity to handle corpses absent any sanitary protection.

    • #15
    • May 1, 2015, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  16. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    All the more reason to limit travel from sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the Third World to the United States.

    • #16
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  17. MarciN Member

    Viruses are hard to kill.

    I was in the midst of a bad cold one night years ago, and I was looking around for something to read on the Internet just to pass the time. I looked up the “common cold” and came across a web page on the subject written by a British doctor that was really funny and that described exactly what was going on with my cold. If laughter is the best medicine, the Brits have nailed it. :)

    He started out by saying that people need to understand that the virus has only one purpose in its life–to reproduce and replicate. It will go to any lengths to achieve its ends.

    I’m not sure Ebola is gone.

    That said, the CDC has done the same thing with the vaccine problem as it did with the Ebola outbreak in 2014. I’ve been following the vaccine story for years now, and I could write my own book about this, but the upshot is that only 1.5 percent of kindergartners in the United States are not fully vaccinated according to the CDC’s published vaccination standards. And it may be a good thing: if something does go wrong with a vaccine, thank the Lord we have a few people who haven’t had it.

    What do the EPA, CDC, and INS all have in common? Lack of effective top-level executives.

    • #17
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:37 AM PDT
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  18. Mike H Coolidge

    MarciN:Viruses are hard to kill.

    I was in the midst of a bad cold one night years ago, and I was looking around for something to read on the Internet just to pass the time. I looked up the “common cold” and came across a web page on the subject written by a British doctor that was really funny and that described exactly what was going on with my cold. If laughter is the best medicine, the Brits have nailed it. :)

    He started out by saying that people need to understand that the virus has only one purpose in its life–to reproduce and replicate. It will go to any lengths to achieve it ends.

    I’m not sure Ebola is gone.

    This round is. It will always return.

    That said, the CDC has done the same thing with the vaccine problem as it did with the Ebola outbreak in 2014. I’ve been following the vaccine story for years now, and I could write my own book about this, but the upshot is that only 1.5 percent of kindergartners in the United States are not fully vaccinated according to the CDC’s published vaccination standards.

    The problem is the people who don’t have them tend to congregate in the same communities.

    And it may be a good thing: if something does go wrong with a vaccine, thank the Lord we have a few people who haven’t had it.

    I’m sorry, but this sounds ridiculous to my ear.

    • #18
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:43 AM PDT
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  19. V.S. Blackford Inactive

    The Wall Street Journal has a good article today about the lingering effects of Ebola on those who survived their illness. Unfortunately the epidemic itself is not over yet.

    • #19
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:43 AM PDT
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  20. MarciN Member

    Mike H:

    And it may be a good thing: if something does go wrong with a vaccine, thank the Lord we have a few people who haven’t had it.

    I’m sorry, but this sounds ridiculous to my ear.

    I shouldn’t have said it. It’s just a thought, not a theory or belief. :)

    • #20
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:49 AM PDT
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  21. MarciN Member

    I need to add also that in all fairness to the CDC et al., the only way to combat Ebola is through education. How do you make your voice heard in a media-soaked populace?

    • #21
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:51 AM PDT
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  22. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    MarciN:

    Mike H:

    And it may be a good thing: if something does go wrong with a vaccine, thank the Lord we have a few people who haven’t had it.

    I’m sorry, but this sounds ridiculous to my ear.

    I shouldn’t have said it. It’s just a thought, not a theory or belief. :)

    Marci, did you mean something along the lines of: if the virus is not there, how would a new vaccine get made?

    • #22
    • May 1, 2015, at 8:59 AM PDT
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  23. Son of Spengler Contributor

    Yes, those hysterics such as John Walker.

    A number of us highlighted that good risk management procedures were not being followed. That doesn’t make us “hysterics”, whether or not the risks materialize. Are you hysterical if you buy home insurance and your house never burns down? Or does that make the uninsured the rational ones?

    We also noted that our Federal government was clearly not being forthcoming with information, and was prioritizing political spin over public health. Public pronouncements were incoherent. Observing that didn’t make us “hysterics”, either.

    All in all, I’m glad that the worst case fears were avoided. Part of reason is the positive structural factors in our US health care system — as the epidemic skeptics highlighted at the time. Part, though, is the result of heightened vigilance that Man With The Axe notes above. This was accomplished despite the apparent fecklessness of policymakers and government administrators.

    • #23
    • May 1, 2015, at 9:00 AM PDT
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  24. MarciN Member

    MLH:

    MarciN:

    Mike H:

    And it may be a good thing: if something does go wrong with a vaccine, thank the Lord we have a few people who haven’t had it.

    I’m sorry, but this sounds ridiculous to my ear.

    I shouldn’t have said it. It’s just a thought, not a theory or belief. :)

    Marci, did you mean something along the lines of: if the virus is not there, how would a new vaccine get made?

    Yes.

    And also, if we needed to identify the source of a problem, we would need a control group for study purposes.

    Which probably isn’t an applicable principle in immunology research. :)

    • #24
    • May 1, 2015, at 9:07 AM PDT
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  25. MarciN Member

    Son of Spengler:Yes, those hysterics such as John Walker.

    A number of us highlighted that good risk management procedures were not being followed. That doesn’t make us “hysterics”, whether or not the risks materialize. Are you hysterical if you buy home insurance and your house never burns down? Or does that make the uninsured the rational ones?

    We also noted that our Federal government was clearly not being forthcoming with information, and was prioritizing political spin over public health. Public pronouncements were incoherent. Observing that didn’t make us “hysterics”, either.

    All in all, I’m glad that the worst case fears were avoided. Part of reason is the positive structural factors in our US health care system — as the epidemic skeptics highlighted at the time. Part, though, is the result of heightened vigilance that Man With The Axe notes above. This was accomplished despite the apparent fecklessness of policymakers and government administrators.

    Sorry I can only like this once. :)

    There were some good reasons to be alarmed. I still am, actually. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it.

    The big problem for the government was getting people to listen, getting the money for an increase in hazmat protection materials, new systems. To reach the small community hospitals.

    Some shouting had to happen.

    • #25
    • May 1, 2015, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  26. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Indeed, but if anyone shouts about securing the border (as I have for the better part of a decade), he in turn is shouted down as being a bigot and a hysteric.

    • #26
    • May 1, 2015, at 9:18 AM PDT
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  27. MarciN Member

    Mike LaRoche:Indeed, but if anyone shouts about securing the border (as I have for the better part of a decade), he in turn is shouted down as being a bigot and a hysteric.

    I know.

    It is crazy these days to not “secure our perimeter.”

    Careless and insane.

    • #27
    • May 1, 2015, at 9:22 AM PDT
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  28. James Gawron Thatcher

    Claire,

    I think we need to get clear about something. The misinformation was coming out of CDC and WHO. The very agencies entrusted with the job of providing accurate information to the public.

    The misinformation was two fold. First, by suggesting comparisons to past epidemics who’s scope was vastly greater than the data they possessed about Ebola, did a great disservice to the public and undermined their credibility. Second, the particular features of Ebola were very different from most infections and required a special regime for the health care workers. Instead of starting from a point of honesty about this and recognizing that extra effort was required CDC vastly underrated this threat initially and again this resulted in loss of credibility as they back tracked all of their first statements.

    I think all of this has little to do with hysteria with the public who remained very calm considering the provocation. Also, I think that there was little hysteria pandering in the news media. Quite the opposite as critics simply pointed out CDC’s false statements as Dr. Rahe did about the risk to the health care workers.

    The real issue here is Gruber. The patented Jonathan Gruber disdain for the truth and right to lie to the public, is what happened. Obama wanted to get lots of money for overseas health relief and not admit that things like his immigration policy created extra health risks inside this country. So have CDC exaggerate the global epidemic risk and underplay the risks to the American health care worker, yeah that’s the ticket. I think Tommy Flanagan (President of Pathological Liars Anonymous or so he says) is Obama’s favorite consultant on these things. You can keep your Doctor & Plan, Health Care costs will go down, Ebola is a greater risk than AIDs, it’s safe and easy to take care of Ebola patients, there are no additional public health risks to allowing the undocumented to stampede across the border. Yeah that’s the ticket!

    Regards,

    Jim

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    • May 1, 2015, at 9:25 AM PDT
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  29. Anglo-Feline Thatcher

    All I know is that in my appointment reminder call from my family physician who is associated with a major Philadelphia medical system, I was asked if I had been to Africa recently or exposed to someone who recently traveled to Africa. This happened last week. They wanted to know this before I came to the office.

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    • May 1, 2015, at 9:28 AM PDT
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  30. Jason Rudert Member

    If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.

    -Calvin Coolidge

    So then. Barack Obama? More conservative than Ricochet. The Democratic party hack he hired to be the ebola czar? Right man, right job, right time. This country handles outbreaks of our own native hemorrhagic fevers all the time. A little PR was all that was ever necessary to handle the ebola outbreak. And quarantining West African countries would have been a massive over-reaction.

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    • May 1, 2015, at 9:38 AM PDT
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