Almost Everything Half of America Believes About Ebola is Dead Wrong

Last night an alert was issued from the White House, advising the president had decided to cancel a visit to Rhode Island and New York, in order to continue “monitoring the ongoing government response to the threat posed by the Ebola virus.” Or, as many right-wing propagandists interpreted the news: “to monitor how fast Obama can give us all ‘the Ebola,’ declare martial law, and take our guns.” They even have a t-shirt. When your entire life revolves around irrational fear, a health crisis half a world away is “an epidemic sweeping across the nation.” Thanks, Obama!

Except, of course, THERE IS NO EPIDEMIC in this country. The BREAKING NEWS, NATION ON HIGH ALERT, and PLANELOAD OF PASSENGERS IN PERIL headlines screaming at us 24-hours-a-day aren’t helping much, either. Here are the FACTS: you don’t have ‘the Ebola.’ You’re not going to GET the Ebola virus, unless you fly to Dallas, barge into an isolation unit and french kiss Nina Pham or Amber Vinson (and even then there’s a good chance that if you DID, you STILL wouldn’t get it). Relax.

President Obama responds to the threat of Ebola

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press after a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Yes, the president cancelled his scheduled trip to “continue monitoring the U.S. response to Ebola,” which Politico dubbed merely “optics” from an administration concerned about midterm elections (seriously?) and Fox News referred to as “scrambling” to “to ease concerns over the spread of Ebola.” Excuse me — what “spread?” Two health care professionals who came in direct contact to a dying patient have tested positive and are currently in isolation. That’s it.

I know — let’s blame the victims; media reports have largely focused on what these women did “wrong.” Well, for starters, they went to work for a tertiary hospital which sent a Liberian patient home, because PROFITS (even though, technically, it’s a non-profit institution). Thanks, capitalism. It’s not as though when Thomas Eric Duncan initially arrived for treatment, “LIBERIA” might have acted like a large, blinking, neon sign of caution for the resident on duty. By the time Thomas became highly infectious, he returned to a hospital which not only didn’t have CDC protocols in place, they didn’t even have a hazmat suit on site. The staff did the best they could under the circumstances to protect themselves, but yes, a couple of the people caring for a dying man did contract the virus.

If you’re looking for a villain here, my money’s on irresponsible journalists and lawmakers who infect ordinary Americans with irrational fears which, as it turns out, is a lot easier than contracting Ebola. People like Representative Tom Marino (R-PA), who just called for the resignation of CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, because “This Ebola situation is beginning to spiral beyond control.”

No, it’s not, you imbecilic clown. What’s next, Tom?! Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater? President Obama is NOT offering a “false sense of security to many of our citizens,” he’s offering them the FACTS, without the side-order of paranoia:

Because of the measures that we’ve put in place, as well as our world-class health system and the nature of the Ebola virus itself – which is difficult to transmit – the chance of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low.

And can we PLEASE stop suggesting that “a temporary travel ban for such individuals who live in or have traveled from certain West African countries” is somehow “reasonable and timely?” You couldn’t be more wrong if you were twins, Congressman Bill Shuster, (R-PA), and Senator John Thune, (R-SD). Again, dealing with facts is always a good idea.

In recent months we’ve had thousands of travelers arriving here from West Africa, and so far only one case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States, and that’s the patient in Dallas.

Yes, the Ebola virus might hitch a ride to the states in an airline passenger, but it’s not “airborne,” as some other irresponsible parties have suggested. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reminds us “it’s very unusual for a virus to change how it’s transmitted.” Take AIDS, for example.

Of all the years we’ve known HIV, and with all the replication and mutation, it has never changed its transmission … [with Ebola] it’s not the paramount issue on my mind because it’s fundamentally unlikely.

In the “fundamentally unlikely” event you find yourself caring for a patient with Ebola, don’t just “wear three or four pair of latex gloves” (like the staff at Texas Presbyterian Hospital was doing when the CDC arrived on site). During the press conference in the Roosevelt Room at the White House yesterday, President Obama also said this:

I know that the American people are concerned about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak, and Ebola is a very serious disease.  And the ability of people who are infected who could carry that across borders is something that we have to take extremely seriously.  At the same time, it is important for Americans to know the facts.

Fact: you don’t have ‘the Ebola.’ Fact: your odds of becoming infected are slim to none. For example, you can’t get it by sitting next to someone on a plane (unless they’re already displaying symptoms — and even then you’d have to really work at it to get sick). You are TWICE as likely to contract HIV or SARS from someone who has it — and ten times more likely to get the mumps from an infected patient — than you are to get sick from someone who has been exposed to Hepatitis C or ‘the Ebola’ virus.

Fact: half the adults surveyed in a recent poll believe there will be a wide-ranging epidemic of ‘the Ebola’ right here in the United States during the coming year. Not surprisingly, half the country also votes for Republicans. Any questions? Get the facts — the White House Blog is an excellent source of information about the disease, and what we all can do to stay healthy.

You’re welcome.

H/T: White House Blog | Images: Wikimedia Commons / The White House

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