Yesterday, the news broke that the U.S. has its first case of Ebola. Some news organizations seemed more than a little giddy about this, to be honest. Certain cable anchors seemed like they had been waiting on pins and needles for this to happen and they could barely contain their excitement... And I'm not linking to any stories about it because every one I have seen says the same thing: a patient traveled from West Africa to the U.S., started showing symptoms, went to the hospital, is now isolated, certain people who came into contact with the patient are being monitored.
It's what they don't say that's frustrating.
Here's the thing: everything you think you know about Ebola is probably wrong, because, as with many huge news stories, it's faster, easier, and more clickable to say "EBOLA IS TERRIFYING AND COULD POSSIBLY END THE WORLD" than it is to get into the nuance.
Sometimes this is just annoying. In cases of health epidemics, it's also extremely irresponsible. This omission of information because of "time constraints" (or more likely a desire for clicks and views) has led millions of Americans to believe that Ebola is something it's not. If you simply watch cable or network news or read most of the mainstream print media you will come away with more questions than answers: wait, what exactly is it? How is it spread? What are the symptoms? How long until we all bleed to death?
According to a recent Harvard poll, 39 percent of Americans are worried about a large-scale outbreak in the U.S. and 26 percent are worried they or a family member might get Ebola sometime in the next year. This, according to Harvard, the NIH, the Mayo Clinic and many many journalists who have actually been doing the hard work of health reporting for decades, is absurd. But it's not that Americans are stupid, it's that they are consuming media that does not give them all the information.
No, Ebola is not something to take lightly. But blowing it out of proportion in order to fit our 24-hours news cycle is the other extreme, and that's not helpful either, even if it is lucrative. So, as a bit of an antidote, here are a couple of links to articles that actually try to teach you something, instead of just freaking you out. TL;DR: Ebola does not spread during incubation, only when there are symptoms, and our health care system is light years ahead of what's available in West Africa, which is a reason for us to calm down about our own safety and maybe direct some of our concern over there. Let me know if you come across other good articles on this that you'd like to share!