Growing Ebola fears threaten to paralyze the nation

Will Manolarakis

Following the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa earlier this year, the United States wrapped itself in a bubble founded on hope.

Many convinced themselves that the epidemic could be contained in third-world countries such as Guinea and Sierra Leone. 

That they had more pressing matters to worry about on their minds than a headline passing through the bottom of CNN saying that the World Health Organization declared Ebola an “international public health emergency.” 

That somehow, someway, the virus would manage to resolve itself and fade away into the past like Swine Flu had several years before. 

But then, on Sept. 30, the first United States Ebola case was confirmed in Dallas, Texas. 

Then, the bubble popped.

Almost instantaneously, a paradigm shift occurred throughout the U.S.  

Looming fears were made tangible with the news that this deadly virus was now on our soil and that we could actually be at risk for the virus ourselves. 

No longer could we mitigate our fears by bathing them in a river of wishful thinking. 

Ebola had finally arrived. 

Upon the shattering of our illusion, we entered into an Ebola frenzy and sought to acquire as much information as possible about the virus. 

What is Ebola? 

How can we stop it? 

Am I at risk for Ebola? 

All of those questions and  many more entered the forefronts of our minds because now Ebola was real for us. 

Our nation rapidly progressed from having a general lack of interest in this deadly yet mostly unknown virus in Africa to being diagnosed with a mild case of paranoia over it. Mild  paranoia quickly evolved into major paranoia over the virus. 

Our blanket of security was forcefully removed from our shoulders, and the icy chill of reality quickly took its place. 

At this point, I would like to take a second to pause and review the purely objective facts of Ebola. 

As of October 26, four people have been diagnosed in the United States with Ebola.

The first to be diagnosed was Thomas Eric Duncan, who came from Liberia to visit relatives on Sept. 20 and later experienced symptoms of the virus on Sept. 25. 

After a thorough evaluation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, he was deemed safe to return home.

However, he returned to the hospital on Sept. 28 in much worse condition and was diagnosed with Ebola two days later. 

Unfortunately, on Oct. 8, Duncan died in an isolation unit at the hospital as a result of Ebola.

Four days later, Nina Pham, a nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan during his stay at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was diagnosed with Ebola. 

Nurse Pham became the first person to be infected with Ebola in the United States. 

A second nurse who treated Duncan, Amber Joy Vinson, was diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 15, and she had taken roundtrip flights between Cleveland and Dallas in the days prior to her diagnosis. 

However, she did not exhibit symptoms of the virus during those flights.

Both nurses have now been declared virus-free after staying in isolation.

 Emory University Hospital announced on Oct. 22 that Vinson no longer tested positive for the virus, while the National Institute of Health made a similar  announcement regarding Pham on Oct. 24. 

The fourth and final individual to have been diagnosed with Ebola thus far is Dr. Craig Allen Spencer.

Dr. Craig Allen Spencer likely contracted the virus while working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. 

He is currently being kept in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and is “in good shape,” according New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In light of those facts, I pose the question—is our widespread fear of Ebola truly merited?

In a sense, we have tipped the scales in the opposite direction. It almost seems as though we have gone from being unaware to over aware. In the process we have developed misconceptions regarding the virus that have contributed to this overwhelming fear. 

First and foremost, one can only become infected with Ebola through exposure to the bodily fluids of another who has the virus while he or she is exhibiting its symptoms. This important to remember when our country is highly anxious about “catching” Ebola.

Additionally, all of the individuals who have contracted the virus so far and have exhibited such symptoms have been placed in isolation, meaning that they won’t pass the virus onto others. 

Measures have been enacted to screen for Ebola at various major airports across the United States as well. 

Furthermore, in another effort to address the issue of the virus in the U.S., the White House has named Ron Klain, a former presidential chief of staff, Ebola czar. 

Clearly, significant steps are being taken to prevent the spread of Ebola. This is necessary because the virus, if uncontained, would pose a significant threat to the health of those in the United States. 

As such, I would recommend that you still practice basic hygiene and possibly even wash your hands a bit more often than you may have in the past.

But that hazmat suit and huge gallon of Purell that you picked up from Costco over the weekend? 

Please feel free to return those at your earliest convenience.