Friday, October 17, 2014

Rationalizing Ebola


People have very strange ways of rationalizing the risk of ebola. Some things I've heard and read that have made me a wee bit frothy...

1. The flu is more dangerous and kills more people, but millions don't get their flu shots so why are you worried about ebola?

I love this one. Let me type this slowly so maybe you can understand.

I. Got. The. Flu. Shot.

So has the rest of my family. You probably got it, too, right? I mean, you wouldn't run around frothing at the mouth about how dangerous the flu was and not get your shot, would you?

I'm sorry about the millions who can't or won't get the shot, but I can't fix them. I have controlled my risk and that of my family. Unlike, ebola, there are actual vaccines for the flu that mostly work. Most of us have the means to contain the flu that don't rely upon what anyone else does (or doesn't do).

And what does that have to do with the fact that ebola is now spreading and flying the friendly skies? Does that mean it's no longer deadly? That the CDC isn't screwing up constantly? That we don't have new cases? Are you saying an ebola patient could be my roomie and I wouldn't get sick? What?

Also, go get your damn flu shot already.

2.Ebola isn't airborne, so stop worrying.

Neither is norovirus and it shuts down entire cruise ships. I understand something like 15 million people a year get norovirus in the US.

So your point is...what? It's not contagious unless it's airborne? Do unicorns exist in your magical thinking land?

3.Only one person has died. Ebola is no big deal.

They probably said that about Typhoid Mary. I mean, look, if thinking like that makes you feel better, then go for it (unless you work at the CDC, in which case, you should resign). The metric I look at is the infection is spreading and we are failing to prevent it. At the rate we're going, one death is just the beginning.

What are you going to do when the next person dies? Pretend it didn't happen?

4.More people are overweight and suffering health complications from that than will ever have ebola. Why do we worry about ebola when we clearly don't care about our health?

Reasons for being concerned about ebola include:

1. If we are sick and fighting it within our borders, we aren't going to be able to help anyone else.

2. We don't have hospital beds, equipment or training to deal with a large scale outbreak. While it's true that we have more hospitals and doctors than Africa, we don't have large scale facilities or expertise that can handle lots of ebola patients. In that sense, we'll find dealing with an outbreak just as challenging as Africa has.

3. When ebola is prevalent, your lifestyle diseases will kill you because ebola will steal resources.

4. Ebola is a destabilizing geopolitical force. The bigger it gets, the worse the politics will be. Ebola will make Putin and ISIS look like frosted cupcakes. It's not ALL about your diabetes.

5. There is no curative treatment and the death rate is very high.The good news is you won't have to worry about any of those lifestyle diseases. You'll be dead!

6. The CDC response so far has been the equivalent of having a Walmart greeter perform brain surgery.

7.West Nile Virus heralds from Africa and is now endemic pretty much world wide. We should avoid that with ebola.

Now, if you feel inspired to tackle your health issues because of ebola, that's great, but it doesn't change any of the above. We could all become marathon running vegans tomorrow and it wouldn't make any difference to ebola.

That's why we care about ebola. We can't exercise or diet it away. Plus, it's probably not a bad thing to go into your ebola infection with a few extra pounds.


5. Ebola will never be a big problem here. We have much better health care and systems in place.

Hahahaha. I'll buy this one when people stop catching ebola and flying around on commercial airlines while they're coming down with it.

So now what? Do we panic? No, that serves no purpose. What do we do? I have no idea.

If I could, I would fire Dr. Freidan who runs the CDC along with whoever else is in management. That leaves the problem of identifying an appropriate replacement though, and I'm not sure we have anyone waiting in the wings who has the right skill set.

Somehow, we have to get to a point where the CDC isn't actually exposing or infecting people. How that happens, I can't tell you.

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