keep calm and carry on

Ever since the one guy from Liberia came to the US, everyone has been panicking over Ebola. This is completely unnecessary, and will only make things worse.

These are the facts:

  • Late in September, a Liberian named Thomas Duncan came to Dallas, Texas after being exposed to the Ebola virus during an honestly very heroic and selfless act. He showed symptoms of the virus shortly after coming to the US.
  • At first, he was sent home with antibiotics. However, as soon as it became clear what was happening, he was admitted to a special hospital and put in isolation. He was only infectious during this period–that’s how Ebola works. Just to be safe, anyone he might have been in contact with was put under quarantine.
  • Shortly after his death, it was found that one of the nurses had contracted the virus. She was put in isolation and given a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor.
  • Shortly after this, another nurse contracted the virus. The CDC had been expecting this, and was prepared to deal with it. She had traveled to Cleveland, on bad advice from the CDC, but probably not while infectious. Again, just to be safe, the plane was decontaminated and passengers were called.
  • At the JFK airport, there was a scare after a Nigerian vomited and died. However, this was likely not actually from the Ebola virus. Ebola has been dealt with in Nigeria, with no new confirmed cases in over a month. In addition, though this strain has had less bleeding than most, the effects of the final stages are still extremely visible. He probably wouldn’t have been able to drive to the airport, get through security, walk to the plane, etc. I’d be more concerned about finding out what he did have.
  • It was found that someone who was in contact with Thomas Duncan was on a Caribbean cruise. She has voluntarily confined herself to her quarters, and does not show symptoms thus far.

Some crucial facts. First, the CDC is taking swift, drastic action, incredibly important in any crisis. This means that it will probably stop here. Second, Ebola is not airborne, and the chances of it mutating to become airborne are almost nil. You can get it from an infected person coughing on you in close proximity (spit and such), but not from breathing without a mask on. Third, the people most at risk are health workers and people in West Africa, not the average American citizen. If the CDC is not personally calling you, you are probably not at risk.

Even if this were an actual outbreak, panic would be the worst possible solution. Surely you’ve heard that you should always stay calm if there is an emergency. The people telling you this have a point. I’m not sure what evolutionary precedent there is for the instinct of panic–you’d think it would have been weeded out simply by natural selection.

You know those “keep calm and carry on” posters on the internet? You probably already know this, but they were distributed in the UK during the Second World War, when the Nazis were bombing London. Why? Isn’t the point were you’re being bombed the perfect time to panic?

No. The point where you are being bombed is the worst time to panic. Panic only leads to disaster and ruin. Can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone in Britain screamed and ran around in circles?

Don’t get me wrong, I am concerned about Ebola. They should have given the body at JFK more than a ‘cursory’ examination, and they should be checking everyone who was on his flight, or at least calling them to see if they’re all right. I’m not a CDC lackey, tricking you into rubbing dead bodies all over yourself. What I am is a concerned citizen, but it isn’t Ebola I’m concerned about.

No, its all the hysterics I’m worried about. I’m worried about the people who go on blogs and spread disinformation and lies just to freak people out. I’m worried about the people who throw a surgical mask on the floor of a bus and yell that they have Ebola. I’m worried about the maniacs hiding in their basements with rifles, barricading their doors to “KEEP THE EBOLA OUT!!!” I’m afraid the public will panic and total societal collapse will ensue. It happened during the Great Depression. It can happen again.

Please, do your part and spread the message of calm before it’s too late. It’s not Ebola that will kill us, it’s fear.

Update: It was confirmed that a doctor returning to New York from West Africa had contracted the virus and had taken a subway and a cab, gone bowling and ate at a coffee shop. As usual, people are panicking. However, he was most likely not contagious, as he did not show symptoms during the period in which he was doing these things. The people he definitely made contact with are being quarantined, along with himself, but this is purely a precaution. Thank you for staying calm.