Ebola: anti-hysteria

Following my description of Ebola as a “Superstar Disease“, microbiologistic people all over the world are queuing up to agree with me:

Indeed. And then there was sciencey author and journalist Maryn McKenna, who was lured out of her temporary hermit status (she’s busy writing a book and doesn’t have time for all this real life stuff) by the Ebola hyperbole, noise and nonsense:

The Ebola outbreak has been building in West Africa for a while, but when it was revealed at the end of last week that two American aid workers had caught the disease — and that they were being transported back to the US for treatment — the news and the reaction to it instantly filled every channel. Over the weekend, so much misinformation and outrage got pumped out that it feels as though there’s no way to cut through the noise.

McKenna’s reaction was to compile a compilation of sensible reactions, columns and opinion pieces on Ebola for Wired.

That I am anti-Ebola panic — and especially anti-Ebola media scrum, which was disgraceful — does not mean I am not concerned about Ebola where it is authentically a problem, which is in the expanding epidemic in West Africa. It is a dreadful outbreak, it needs attention, and it says something ugly about us as a society that we only really noticed it when two Westerners were injured by it. But, again: The conditions that are pushing that epidemic along do not exist in the US.

To be fair, I think that the world (although perhaps not the USA) was concerned about Ebola and the Daily Mail had begun with its scare stories before these two aid workers were repatriated for treatment. Maybe it’s because we’re on the same continent or maybe it’s because the US remains entirely US-centric that here in SA, we’re somehow more aware about the Ebola outbreak and have been for a while.
So yes, same continent, but Africa is big: Sierra Leone’s Freetown is closer to Miami than it is to Cape Town. But then we’re all just a flight or two away anyway.

If I worked for the CDC (albeit that they’re not always 100% perfect) or any of the organisations involved with the transport or treatment of the two Americans in Atlanta, I’d actually be rather offended that people thought I’d be so sloppy at my job or poorly-trained enough to pose a danger to people in the surrounding area. It’s not like I go up to local scaffolders and suggest that their scaffolding isn’t safe. Well, not often, anyway.

Before you get carried along with the hype, you’d do well to go and have a read of some of the stuff McKenna links to; my favourite being this one.

3 thoughts on “Ebola: anti-hysteria

  1. What I found mildly interesting, something I just had not thought of, was pointed out in a few News24 comments (I know, something actually sensible on a News24 comment) was that hundreds of South Africans are working in all of the affected countries in mines, and the commenters had personally flown into and out of South Africa since the outbreak without a single question or check for fever at border control. So, not that there is any reason to panic, but there is no handle at all on South Africans coming in and out of affected countries or at least was not until recently. Just worth the airports thinking about.

  2. CeeBee > Well, they are apparently doing fever checks at ORT, but that’s hardly foolproof for Ebola, given the length of incubation time involved.
    So it comes down to self-reporting and the keen eyes of the trained flight staff (who, apparently actually are trained in looking out for this sort of thing.

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