Ebola in the United States: An Epidemic of Fear

On January 18th, the Washington Post published an article on the nearly empty US Ebola treatment facilities in Liberia. For most of West Africa’s Ebola impacted nations, the worst appears to be over. With the benefit of hindsight, let us take a look at one our blogger’s views in October of last year, during the height of America’s Ebola “crisis.”

Blog Post By: Willa Seybolt

There is no Ebola outbreak in the United States. No one in the general public has fallen ill, only the nurses who treated the first Ebola patient, Thomas Duncan, have contracted the disease on U.S. soil. Of the two nurses, one is in fair condition and the other one has been cleared of the infection. The disease was caught at an early stage thanks to expert medical care. While some may find it troubling that the nurses contracted Ebola in the first place, it is important to keep in mind that they had direct contact with a sick patient.

Ebola should be taken seriously. People who are exposed to it must be monitored, and confirmed cases should be handled with the utmost medical care. However, the general public should not be worried about their lives being at risk. The panic caused by Ebola will be much more disruptive than the disease itself. The number of people who have contracted in Ebola in the United States is lower than the number of people who contract the Bubonic Plague domestically each year. The constant news coverage has caused escalated hysteria by permeating the national psyche.

There has been serious dramatization and misinterpretation of the events within the media and the public. On his show, Rush Limbaugh went as far as to claim that Obama is letting Ebola into the United States as a form of repentance for slavery. Recently, Navarro College in Texas rejected applicants from Nigeria because they are from a country with cases of Ebola. It should be noted that the World Health Organization has declared Nigeria Ebola-free and that if Navarro College is going to impose that standard, they should reject all American applicants as well because now they too come from a country with Ebola.

In response to Ebola in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain as the Ebola czar. Mr. Klain will use his post to efficiently make decisions, sidestep some bureaucracy, and keep the President and his top aides briefed on progress and developments on the issue. This is a responsible action for the government to take, but it once again runs the risk of raising panic. The Ebola czar post is a precaution, and a way of delegating responsibility to fight the spread of Ebola. Citizens should not be concerned that the Mr. Klain has been appointed because of a massive threat to public health. He serves to actively address the crisis before it starts.

The United States has recognized the importance of smooth and efficient management of the Ebola situation, as well as the value of monitoring people who may have been exposed to the disease. The precautions and monitoring will continue because there is still a risk of more health care workers falling ill and people entering the country who have been infected. However, Ebola is not a major national concern, nor will it be if the U.S. continues to treat patients and monitor possible cases. When considering how to act on Ebola, the United States should not turn inward but outward. Countries that are the worst hit are still in desperate need. As of November 2014, the United States has deployed 170 civilian, medical, healthcare, and disaster response experts and has allocated $300 million toward fighting Ebola in West Africa.

The terrible epidemic has ravaged West African nations and implanted a painful reminder of the dangers of contagious disease in an overpopulated world. When considering Ebola, individuals in the United States should not be overly concerned about their own risk of exposure, but think about the tragedy for the families who have been affected. We are very lucky to live in a country with a highly functional healthcare system and a government that has the resources to handle domestic Ebola cases. Ultimately, Americans should be less concerned with their chances of getting Ebola and more on getting their yearly flu shots.

In late October, there was a new development on the case of Ebola in the United States. Around 8:30 PM on October 23rd, it was announced that Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea, has tested positive for Ebola. While a news story like this is likely to cause panic, it is important to put it in perspective and remain calm. When Dr. Spencer detected a fever, he called Doctors Without Borders, who he had been working for in Guinea, and he was taken to the hospital by a medical team in full protective gear. New Yorkers should be confident in the quick response by public health officials and hope for Dr. Spencer’s recovery.


Ebola hysteria: An epic, epidemic overreaction

The Dangerous Myth of America’s Ebola Panic

The Globe Staff

Author: The Globe Staff