Hope you guessed my name. Let’s party!

Ebola. The name’s Ebola, and the mere mention of it sends the mind into paroxysms of fear. For good reason: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a particularly nasty illness, with symptoms straight out of a horror story. The mysterious disease that may have come from a cave in deepest, darkest Africa, which causes uncontrolled bleeding through all orifices, through the pores, the eventual liquefaction of internal organs, resulting in a painful, violent death aren’t symptoms that typically lend themselves to romantic notions; it is a mean, dirty way to go. It conjures up images of Richard Preston’s terrifying 1994 book The Hot Zone and its portrayals of the Reston, Zaire, and Marburg strains of the virus. Ebola is real, and it is a threat.

And now, it’s landed here in the US. To briefly recap, two volunteers from a Christian organization, working in Sierra Leone with Ebola victims, contracted the disease, which is a risk one takes with this sort of work (one could also snarkily note that as missionaries, coming down with the disease must be a rather ironic expression of God’s will, and who are any of us to question it?). Rather than leave them there, however, like everyone else in the area who has the disease, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta have brought these two people home to treat them. Needless to say, there is a bit of outrage over this: a seeming majority of Americans, doubtlessly educated by the movie Outbreak and quacks like Drs Mercola and Oz, are up in arms that our government would be so reckless as to transport people we know are infected and showing symptoms of the most terrifying sickness yet discovered, via airplane, to a continent with no known instances of the disease. It just seems like an awful lot of bad decisions are being made, and we don’t have any say in the matter. And I kinda thing we should.

I don’t begrudge the worries many people feel about this; after all our government, if we’re being brutally honest about it, hasn’t shown a lot of skill at keeping sensitive things under wraps and, this time, it could be the end of all of us. The fanatics are busily dusting off their “End is Nigh” signs, the preppers are at Costco stocking up for life underground, the conspiracy fantasists are choking the internets with “I Told You So” posts blaming the Knights Templar, Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, chemtrails, the “Kenyan President” and who knows what else for this sorry state of affairs while not-so-secretly hoping a mass extinction event will happen, if for no other reason than to substantiate the lives that they’ve wasted while looking between the lines for their beloved, invisible boogeymen. Add to that the ever-increasing number of people who just want a ringside seat to watch the world burn, and you’ve got quite a party on your hands.

The latest additions to the conspiracy brigade is the army of Mommies who believe that childhood vaccinations cause autism, simply because the idiot known as Jenny McCarthy, whose only claim to fame is getting naked for money in Playboy magazine, told them so. The theory that vaccines cause autism has been roundly stomped out, no proof whatsoever that this actually happens, but the idiocy remains. If a vaccine for Ebola is ever developed, be assured that these folks will have no part of it.

The truth of the matter is that Ebola isn’t all that easy to catch. The primary vector for transmission appears to be via bodily fluids or blood, so avoidance is rather simple. Those in contact with infected persons need to exercise extreme caution when in the presence of them. The disease itself is not airborne but, since coughs and sneezes usually eject fluids, there is a possibility that this type of transmission can occur. Essentially, quarantine even those suspected of carrying the virus, treat them as Level Four contagions, burn the bodies of the dead, and all will be well.

And yet, there’s the still, small part of me that worries. What if there’s an accident? What if someone catches it by mistake and in a moment of hysterical selfishness, runs? What if the ventilation system is compromised, as it was with the 1979 Sverdlovsk accident? What if there’s a rogue researcher deep in the bowels of the CDC, just waiting for the time to be ripe to launch their Doomsday vendetta against the world? What if a shadowy somebody makes a researcher an offer they can’t refuse for the contents of the candy jar? And why on earth do they take samples of every awful pathogen known to man and keep them in storage? I want to believe that it’s in the name of stalwart research and working to eradicate disease, but as long as there are people involved, accidents will happen. Personal fears and prejudices will dominate and those on the raggedy edge between genius and madness will follow agendas the rest of us can only guess at.

What it comes to, as it always does, is for all of us, for it is in our best interest, is for us to educate ourselves responsibly, take whatever precautions that make you feel comfortable, discard fantastical or conspiratorial thinking for the garbage it is, and to respectfully demand transparency and accountability from the organizations that work for us, and to trust them until or unless they give us real, sufficient reason not to. Facebook groups won’t change it. Internet forums and bulletin boards only feed the crazies. Do not pay attention to Jenny McCarthy, who is an idiot.

Read and absorb the excellent information that the Centers for Disease Control is making available, and understand it’s bad business to allow the entire population to be wiped out. After this scare is over, we’ll all go out for a pint and have a laugh about all of this. Or we’ll all be dead and none of it will matter anyway. Either way, won’t you feel silly for not having read my book?

 

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