Ebola, how many times have you heard that word today? This week? Last week?
Now that a man in Dallas, Texas, identified as Thomas Eric Duncan is stricken with Ebola, and 100 people he may have come in contact with are being asked to monitor themselves, the entire nation has become swept up in Ebola-mania.
Whether or not that panic is warranted remains to be seen – for at least the next twenty-one days.
Don’t panic, the CDC and other health professionals are telling the entire country.
There is no reason to worry – you can only get infected with Ebola if you come in direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. The CDC also tells us that a person who is infected but is showing no symptoms cannot spread the infection at all.
That certainly is reassuring to us all – until that infected person starts sweating.
The CDC, in all their wisdom, doesn’t seem to understand that the quickest way to get people to panic is to tell them not to panic, and to continually bombard them daily with updates and precautions.
Human nature is a funny thing. Once a notion is put into someone’s head, it never lets go. When the alarm bells ring panic takes flight and conventional wisdom gets grounded. The use of any warning itself is enough to spread chaos and fear.
But is all that foolishness and reaction warranted? When you have news media outlets like CNN broadcasting up to the minute reports about deadly diseases on the loose, people tend to overreact.
They imagine getting into an elevator in Dallas, and having someone sneezing on them who may have touched the same doorknob at the airport that the guy who is sick with Ebola touched last week.
Remember those body fluids? Does anyone know who the person was that cleaned up all that guy’s vomit after he reportedly threw up all over the ground outside his apartment complex on the way to the hospital? And what he even did with all that contaminated, waste?
Last night, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was asked on CNN, if an infected person’s body fluids could stay on contact surfaces long enough to infect another person with Ebola. Dr. Gupta’s answer was a theoretical YES.
Today on CNN, Dr. Gupta added that the Ebola virus can stay active on contact surfaces for up to 3 days.
So there is no reason to panic, right? Don’t worry about those mixed signals, you’re probably just not understanding the medical complexities of it all.
Two weeks ago, the WHO (World Health Organization) was warning the entire world that Ebola could potentially infect over 1.4 million people or more. The CDC was also telling us that there was no way the deadly, Ebola virus could cross over to America.
That was after 3,338 people had already died from the disease and had already spread Ebola to two other countries.
The airports are secure, the CDC said. Everyone going in and out of the infected countries and getting on planes are being monitored for any signs of Ebola. What they didn’t bother telling us was that a person could already be infected but not show any symptoms for up to 21 days.
That’s a lot of time and a lot of places a traveler can go to before they start showing any symptoms and start spreading the virus around with body fluids to others.
“There will be more infected patients showing no symptoms flying into the United States.” Another health official said today.
So what has this Dallas case taught us? Scratch the containment theory from country to country. We now know that precaution across borders is not 100% effective.
Thankfully, we also know that the virus is not airborne. You cannot become infected through breathing the virus through the air, but the body fluid contact method still exists.
And there are lots of ways to spread around infected, body fluids – ask any doctor.
Some government authorities and news media people would like us to believe that the spread of Ebola will be contained, and, hopefully, they are right. Thankfully, we have lots of trust and confidence in the CDC’s containment abilities thus far.
But you can’t stop panic. Panic is a human reaction to when there is no guarantee. And once we see a disease spreading where we were previously told it would not, we begin to look at the situation less objectively.
And then there is – humorously – the Zombie factor.
We have all seen the movies and TV shows where deadly viruses spread rapidly and either kill us or turn us into vicious, man-eating, monsters. Shows like “The Ship” and “Z Nation” frighten us with their pre and post-apocalyptic scripts of what the world could be like if a deadly virus got out of control.
As unrealistic as those shows are, some of the theories in those show are not so far-fetched after all.
So, is it any wonder that people are now beginning to panic about Ebola? A disease that not too long ago was thought of as rare and not likely to grow has suddenly become a dangerous reality.
People are becoming infected with Ebola, and lots of them are dying, and at a rapid rate. It may be inconceivable for people in the medical profession to understand why people are panicking, but for the rest of us, there are plenty of logical reasons to think otherwise.
Scientists and medical personnel don’t like to admit publicly what the rest of us already know, which is that most diseases have a mind of their own. They can mutate, create more deadly strains and find new ways to grow and spread in various ways.
And of course, humans make mistakes – like the nurse did in the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. One person’s alleged failure to do their job properly may have set off a chain reaction that will cause more people to become sick or possibly die.
Will more mistakes like that one help the Ebola virus to grow rapidly?
Let’s hope not. The world is in too much of a mess already and under attack from other natural and man-made, disasters.
Joseph E. Rathjen is a freelance writer and an Opinion Writer at 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine.