Disease, famine, war and natural disaster have been mankind’s greatest enemies throughout the course of history. However, it is easy to forget about how deadly they can be — that is, until they appear in our own backyard.
There has been much talk lately of the outbreak of Ebola. It is in every newspaper, every news station and everyone is talking about it; however, it seems that the real flint to the steel was not the outbreak in Africa, but the news that a single man managed to bring the disease into Texas.
When watching the news, it seems incredibly scary to witness cars and apartments being draped by men in biohazard suits. The 50 percent fatality rate for Ebola is especially worrisome.
Despite fears and the constant news coverage of the story, it is not likely that we are about to experience the next black plague in the United States, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has anything to say about it. Ebola is not spread through casual contact, and it does not spread until symptoms begin to show. With only one confirmed case in the U.S., the deadly disease is not likely to be something to fear.
However, the professional opinions at the CDC will not prevent worrying and the attempts to abuse the worry. Talk show hosts such as Bill O’Reilly have no qualms with instilling fear into the public over Ebola.
Ignorance in the general public is understandable, but media outlets often tend to exacerbate and encourage such ignorance in order to appeal to common opinions. Some political talk shows simply don’t do their research, or they have no problem with ignoring research in order to obtain more views.
Fear of Ebola is acceptable and even healthy to a certain degree. Ebola is deadly, and great precautions are being made by the country’s doctors to prevent the U.S. from suffering from an outbreak. Too much fear can unnecessarily cripple day-to-day life and even make treating the outbreak in Africa more difficult if O’Reilly were to get his way.
It sometimes feels as though the American public can often be too easily persuaded from one extreme to another. On both extremes — whether it is refusing to receive vaccinations or panicking over a disease that has only infected one person in the country — the root of the issue lies in foregoing the opinion of the professional medical community for another.
One of the most popular opinions amongst those who are overly afraid of Ebola is that the U.S. government needs to ban all travel from West Africa into the U.S. However, the medical community has not deemed such action necessary in the combat against the disease. In fact, it is possible that such action would impede the critical and necessary medical help that West Africa needs.
The disease is not transmitted through the air. It is not easily transmitted as many may believe; it is transmitted through the bodily fluids of an infected host.
Ebola is transmittable, but none of the people in contact with the Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, have been found to have contracted the disease yet. All people at risk are continuing to be monitored however.
Many steps are being taken throughout the government to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Until it is confirmed that the disease is an imminent risk or danger to the American public, it is wise not to jump to the wildest conclusions that we can imagine.
If anyone is in need of attention, it is not us in the U.S., but those in West Africa who are lacking the expert medical aid that is so available here. Now is not the time for us to panic for our own safety, but to provide aid where it is truly needed. A healthy fear will protect us, but too much fear will allow Ebola to cause more death and destruction than necessary.
Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering senior and may be reached at [email protected].