AMERICA’S GREAT EBOLA SCARE

Posted October 22, 2014 on 11:32 am | In the category Ebola, Election, Healthcare, Politics, Press | by Jeff

Arriving in Boston from Tanzania last Friday I was welcomed into a country caught in deep fright over a disease that had killed just one person in America – a visitor from Liberia who went to the emergency room of a Dallas hospital when he developed ebola symptoms. For whatever reason, the hospital staff misdiagnosed him, sent him home and a few days later he was back with a full blown case of a disease that killed him. It is apparent that an earlier correct diagnosis would have increased his chances, but of course, mistakes do happen.

We had spent nearly three weeks in Africa and ebola had come up in conversation exactly once. People understood that Tanzania, located in East Africa, was some 4-5000 miles from the epicenter of the ebola outbreak and also understood that it was almost impossible to become infected without coming into contact with an infected patient’s bodily fluids. So Tanzanians were informed, behaving responsibly and showed no sign of panic. So just why is America in a frenzy over a disease that has been successfully treated in several American hospitals, has to date killed one person in the country and which has led medical authorities to take very aggressive quarantine steps for any person (or dog) that came into even casual contact with the patient or with the two hospital staff who unwittingly became infected while treating him.

I suppose there are many possible causes of the panic, but three factors seem especially relevant. First is basic ignorance and an unwillingness to learn about the disease by simply reading responsible press reports or listening to the many medical experts who have addressed the issue on radio and tv. Second is the predictably poor performance of much of the press in reporting on the disease, all too frequently emphasizing the dramatic nature of the many deaths in West African countries that have extremely poor medical systems. A third reason – and the one that is almost scandalous in its self-serving irresponsibility – is the use of the issue in the political campaigns for next month’s midterm elections.

Republicans and America’s courtier press have managed to blame President Obama for everything from the civil war in Syria to the failed democracy in Libya, to the corruption in Ukraine, to the failed democracy in Egypt, ad infinitum. Too much of the press carries these rants with a straight face and enough of the people buy it to give it legs. So, we now have Americans hiding under their beds to escape a disease that is largely restricted to the African continent while our Republican leaders (sic) blame Obama for not stopping a disease that basically does not exist in America. Meanwhile a teacher in Maine is put on leave because he flew on a plane that previously had carried a woman that once upon a time had come into contact with the Liberian patient. Three Oklahoma students returned from a trip to Ethiopia, where there are no reported cases of ebola, and have been refused entry into school. Syracuse University barred a Washington Post reporter from a conference because he had done some reporting from Liberia; he had been cleared of any signs of ebola. A Mississippi school had been closed because its principle had been to Zambia, an African country thousands of miles from the West Africa ebola outbreak. A Southwest Airlines flight captain in Orlando called in authorities to remove a person from the plane because he had been in West Africa in late August (the incubation rate is 21 days and he proved to be healthy).

Last night Massachusetts has-been Scott Brown, who has moved to New Hampshire to run against Senator Jeanne Shaheen, joined a Republican national chorus and devoted a large part of a debate appearance to criticizing President Obama (and by implication Senator Shaheen) for not closing our borders to anyone coming from West Africa. The fact that that is a policy that no responsible health professional supports and that it is functionally not possible to accomplish did not deter Brown from trying to scare the bejesus out of the good folk in New Hampshire. Let’s hope the “live free or die” New Hampsherites come out from under their beds and send Brown home to Massachusetts.

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  1. The press (for the most part) loves to sensationalize “the news” . The press will stop at almost nothing to get a good story, no matter the effects on the populace. I remember after the 911 attacks , people were putting seran rap around their houses to prevent an anthrax attack by terrorists. The absurdness of this type of action should have been painfully obvious to any logical person. Where were these people getting this idea from ? The press! For a cinematic example of this phenomenon watch the excellent, yet underrated Kirk Douglas led Ace in the hole . The old adage “no news is good news ” is still very much applicable.

    Comment by Preacherbbb — November 8, 2014 #

  2. The preacher is on to something by bringing up the great 1951 film “Ace in the Hole” in a discussion of media that has sold out is soul to money and /or potential power. It was written produced and directed by Billy Wilder, a Viennese Jew who was lucky to escape the Nazis less than 20 years earlier. As his protagonist, a journalist willing to do anything to sell his story, he chose the young Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielaovitch Demsky to Russian immigrants. The Jews of Europe had learned that it was folly to trust a press that had learned how to lie and Wilder set out his red flags in his new land urging them to keep a careful watch on all media methods.

    Comment by Pop Beloved — November 24, 2014 #

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