As Americans’ fear of Ebola has been rising this week, a number of people are trying to remain calm, and properly direct peoples’ attention to West Africa.
Once inside your body, Fear-bola attacks the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking. It starts with a low-grade concern about the two health care workers diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and slowly builds into fear of a widespread epidemic in the United States. Almost half of the people affected by Fear-bola are also “very” or “somewhat” worried they themselves will catch the virus….
“One person has died in the United States from Ebola and that’s awful. But if you want to worry about a contagious disease that can kill you, worry about the flu. Did you know tens of thousands of people died from the flu last year, tens of thousands? I don’t see people stampeding to CVS to get a flu shot.”
She’s right. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1997 to 2007, flu deaths ranged from a low of about 3,500 to a high of 49,000 deaths a year. The flu reached epidemic levels in last year’s season. And just like that I was cured of Fear-bola with a dose of the facts. Unless you are a health care worker or family member caring for an infected patient, you are not going to contract Ebola in the United States. You have nothing to fear.
Robbins then directs the focus to West Africa:
We cannot allow Fear-bola to take over America because the world needs our help. We need to think rationally, and we need to think globally. In West Africa, the facts are grim — more than 4,000 dead, and the outbreak is doubling in size every three weeks. The World Health Organization says West Africa could see 10,000 new Ebola cases a week by December.
Similar conversation marked The Diane Rehm show today, Calls For A Strengthened Approach In The Fight Against Ebola. From the transcript:
What — should Americans in their daily lives be doing anything different because of the threat of this disease?
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM:
Yeah, and I think this show really highlights this very important point. Yes, we all should be very concerned in the United States but not about contacting Ebola. But it’s about the fact of what’s happening in West Africa. And I think you’ve heard from Jason a very articulate argument why the problem in West Africa is where we have to keep our eyes. You know, it’s a tragedy what’s happened in Dallas and it’s become the media center of this debate or discussion or concern or scare.
You know, I had a discussion yesterday with a taxi driver in Baltimore in which he was concerned about the issue of Ebola. And I shared with him, you know, his risk of having a bad thing happen to him is much greater getting in his cab, driving from downtown Baltimore to the airport than it ever was about Ebola. Nonetheless, this is a very critical international issue.
And so what we’re trying to do here is really kind of titrate the response to say that, if this continues to expand in Africa as it could, it’ll only destabilize potentially much of that continent. That is a dramatic impact on world security and all the issues we think of around a safer globe. And so what — that’s where we have to keep our focus. So let’s be concerned about this. You don’t have to wipe off handles on your carts in the grocery stores unless you’re worried about the salmonella that dripped from the chicken that you were handling, things like that. It’s not about Ebola. But Ebola is really important and we need to support this global response in Africa right now. And we’re not doing that, as Jason has clearly articulated.
The Fox News host emphasized that political gamesmanship is skewing media coverage. “With midterm elections coming, the party in charge needs to appear to be effectively leading. The party out of power needs to show that there is a lack of leadership,” said Smith.
Smith stressed, “I report to you with certainty this afternoon that being afraid at all is the wrong thing to do.” He called media-stoked Ebola panic “counterproductive”, saying that it “lacks basis in fact or reason.”
He acknowledged that Ebola is a serious problem in West Africa, as well as for the victims and their families in Texas, but he pleaded with media outlets to stop fear-mongering about Ebola in the U.S.