EBOLA is this week’s news crisis now that Israel has largely exited Gaza, the Ukrainian military hasn’t yet charged into Donetsk and the U.S. stock market remains high. Somebody has to feed the insatiable news machine; a virus will do. The news sponsors pay for millions of eyeballs glued to screens and those millions had better be forthcoming.
So, what is Ebola? A recently highly contagious virus, from a place with a history of many such. Africa is not unique in this; Latin America and Asia share a history of ghastly diseases too. Consider malaria, which once existed in the U.S. as well. Consider Chagas, disease, which is raising suspicions in the U.S. southwest, where a species of its vector is endemic. Or Lyme disease, definitely endemic in North America.l Ebola is newly scary mainly because it is so newsworthy.
There are a lot of people in Africa; Ebola, which has provided periodic outbreaks for a long time, has recently killed some 887 of them. That’s less than a weeks’ toll in the Syrian civil war, which seems to be less newsworthy. Two American patients were flown back to the U.S. for treatment; one might, from the reports, think that they were ticking nuclear bombs. A half-dozen folk were tested (negative) in New York City, giving rise to headlines about health authorities hiding information from the public.
We’re told that the outbreak may be Worse Than Thought and that US Hospitals are unprepared. One may almost expect to hear dump trucks out front, with loudspeakers yelling: “Bring out your dead!” a ka the 14th century plague. We’re told too of a ” Secret Serum that may have saved the lives of two infected Americans. It is less advertised that one, this is still in lab development and is no secret and two, it is somewhat ironically, made from the tobacco plant.
And all that adds up to our crisis du jour. In the real world, the contraction of the world resulting from cheap, large scale, worldwide travel has guaranteed the spread of disease increasingly with time and development. Ebola is not new and not alone on the list of scary infections. Sooner or later, Ebola or some other — or several other — once foreign infections will grow roots in Europe and North America. Fair repayment, some will say, for the European diseases that once wiped out so many native Americans who lacked resistance to them. That’s just biology. And eventually, everybody will share resistance to all of them because those lacking it will be dead.
But for right now and Ebola, yes, it’s scary; so is malaria and some varieties of the flu. So is Islamic terrorism and nukes in the hands of such as Iran and North Korea and Pakistan and China and Russia and whoever is next. We live in an uncertain world, no point in obsessing over it. And no point in allowing the media to ruin our sleep to no purpose that serves us, either. Ebola is real and its nasty but so are a lot of other things. No point in overdosing on any one of them because the media needs eyeballs on its screens. When genuine havoc is being raised, we will deal with it as we are able. But it’s pointless to borrow it from an uncertain future …