No one quite knows where to stand on Ebola, especially when it comes to an American outbreak. On one hand, you have the government and certain news outlets. They’re telling us that it’s much ado over nothing.
Several years back, there was a rash of shark attack stories down in Florida. Not since the release of Jaws were people so afraid to step foot in the ocean. When it was all said and done, though, statistics showed that the Summer of Sharks had been nothing but media hype. There had been no more shark attacks that summer than any other year. It was just that thing that American news outlets do – they see a ratings grabber and they hammer it until its dead. Ebola, these people say, is not much different from the Summer of Phantom Sharks.
Then there’s the other side. This side says that, no, this one is something different. Spout all the statistics you want about how many people die every year from AIDS and the flu and tuberculosis, but you’re missing the point. This one has the potential to be a game changer. This one could be remembered in 200 years. If anyone’s left to remember it, that is.
No One Can Predict the Future
So which side is right? Well, that’s the whole point. This is an ongoing threat, so we really don’t know. Even the smartest experts in healthcare are only providing a guess when it comes to the future. While we can look to previous Ebola outbreaks for clues, health officials are forced to admit that we don’t fully understand the virility of this outbreak. We don’t quite know what to expect from this strain. This is why it’s disconcerting to hear the CDC and others talk about the ways you “won’t” catch the disease. We’re far too early in the game to be making those kinds of inflexible declarations.
Consider a recent article released by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. In the article, the authors argue that there are “unclear modes of transmission” when it comes to the current outbreak of Ebola. They say that there is evidence that Ebola could be transmitted through the air, something our federal government has assured us can’t happen.
Even if Ebola isn’t at the point where it can be spread through the air today, it could become so over time. Viruses do not remain static and unchanging. Over time, they can mutate and change, rendering much of the advice we hear today obsolete. It would be like telling the country that ISIS is just the JV squad of Al Qaeda, ignoring the fact that terrorist squads can grow into deadly armies given the right circumstances. Of course, who would do that?
Last week, the World Health Organization announced that if we don’t get control of this West African outbreak within 60 days, we could be looking at a crisis unprecedented in human history. That’s not some fear-mongering Republican. That’s not Alex Jones. That’s the WHO, telling us that this has the potential to become something we cannot handle. As far as I can recall, they never said that about the shark attacks off the coast of Florida.
No, it’s not time to panic. What good would it do, anyway? But it is time for this administration to forget about the goddamn elections for a minute and focus on protecting the country.