Picture a country with 180 million people, the largest in that continent. The capital city of this country has a whopping 21 million people living in it. A single man arrives into the country through a commercial airline, infected with the deadly Ebola virus.
An outbreak in a country of this size and magnitude is a terrifying thought. Millions of people are exposed to this disease; millions are at risk of contracting and spreading the disease even further.
This country isn’t the United States. This country is Nigeria, and they were successful in stopping what could have been a potentially lethal crisis within their country. They didn’t have any high-tech equipment to stop the outbreak, but rather, they used some old-school treatment methods.
After finding out that an infected passenger was in the country, the Nigerian government sprung to action. They quickly traced everyone the passenger came in contact with, and routinely followed up with these people for 21 days to ensure that they hadn’t contracted the virus.
They also checked the temperature of every single student in the capital city of Abuja every day before school in order to identify any suspected cases. The country’s Emergency Epidemic Command Center, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, was transformed into an Anti-Ebola Command Center with a full comprehensive plan to contain an outbreak. The Nigerian government issued over 19,000 face-to-face visits to monitor any potentially infected people, tracing back to any potential suspects who were in contact with the symptomatic patient on that commercial flight.
Nigeria was able to isolate the government and contain an outbreak. Since Aug. 31, there haven’t been any recorded cases of Ebola in the country. You may ask, why is this important?
Dallas has a population of around 1.2 million inhabitants, and it has become an unofficial spot to care for the deadly disease in the United States, with multiple cases of confirmed infected patients recorded in the area.
What differs between the two cities is that Dallas did not take the same precautions as the city of Abuja. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first infected patient to be diagnosed with Ebola on American soil, was initially sent home from the hospital when he arrived complaining of a fever after he had notified the doctors that he had just returned form a trip in Africa.
Many would argue that had Duncan received immediate treatment upon his arrival, he would have had a better chance of surviving the deadly disease. His death, along with the contamination of two nurses that had come in contact with him, has spread nationwide fear about Ebola.
When America is faced with a crisis, it’s never minor. This Ebola outbreak has been one of, if not the most, heavily documented stories in the past few months. News organizations across the entire country have given daily updates on the conditions of the infected citizens, turning the nation’s healthy concern into an obsession.
I believe that the coverage for this disease should have placed its focus on the government’s plan to handle the disease, and how the public can cooperate. Ebola is a very serious condition that kills over half of those infected, and it should be treated in a calm and grave manner. The public has every right to panic if they are consistently flooded with images of workers in protective gear and death counts.
Instead, precautions and basic information should have been detailed immediately, including the fact that the probability of a far spread epidemic is very, very slim. Some Internet users have even noted that more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola.
The point here is that while Ebola is a very serious concern in the US, it is not to be blown out of proportion. Sensationalized news has caused widespread panic across the country, causing some somewhat irrational reactions from the general public.
The media should not continue to alarm their viewers, but rather, inform them of any new developments in a calm manner. Doctors have noted that the “great Ebola epidemic of 2014” may be one of the most embarrassing chapters in medical history due exclusively to the extreme paranoia it has caused in our country.
We should take a page from Nigeria, who was recently declared Ebola-free, and turn our focus on those who are actually at risk instead of playing the “what if” game. We need to have faith in our government and believe that this isn’t some conspiracy (yes, I’m talking to you, Chris Brown). We also need to trust that everything possible to prevent this disease is being done, and that our greatest responsibility as citizens is to cooperate with the professional preventative measures we receive.
Let’s allow the CDC to handle this one. In the meantime, there is no need to splurge on a HAZMAT suit. Odds are, you will never be close enough to anyone who may have the disease. In fact, here is a list of 99 things that are more likely to kill you than Ebola. The odds are in your favor, but if you were still worried, I wouldn’t recommend picking up a copy of The Hot Zone anytime soon.