Ebola, a disease especially contagious in its spread of panic, affects an overwhelming number of television journalists. Not since the associates of the Good Witch Glinda and Hermione Granger descended upon Salem has a scourge incited such mass hysterics. Cable news does now for Ebola what Cotton Mather’s Memorable Providence, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions did then for the vexing yet similarly elusive sorcerer problem.
A Dallas Morning News photographer recently captured the image of a man wearing a surgical mask crossing the street. Perhaps because of such vigilance just five cases of the disease exist among the 316 million people residing in the United States. A recent visitor to our country passed away on Wednesday from Ebola, the first recorded death from the disease on American soil. Cars kill about 4,400 pedestrians every year in the U.S. Just something for the masked man photographed outside of the crosswalk to think about.
For Americans, who have managed to survive killer bees, acid rain, shark-infested beaches, and SARS, praying for deliverance from Ebola may be asking too much from the Great Actuarial Table in the Sky.
An Economist/YouGov poll reports 72 percent of Americans voicing concern of an Ebola outbreak in the United States. And why wouldn’t they be afraid? Ashleigh Banfield of the Ebola News Network just informed a guest that the disease is spreading like “wildfire.”
Hysteria, like Ebola, kills.
The 1976 swine-flu “epidemic” sparked a mass immunization campaign in the U.S. that killed 25 people and paralyzed dozens. The actual flu strain killed one person.
The AIDS outbreak initially resulted in phobias over toilet seats, pay phones, and, more understandably, sexual encounters, which crippled many with paranoia that the previous night’s ecstasy would necessarily result in future nights of agony wasting away in a hospice. More strangely, groups purporting to represent the people primarily suffering from the deadly disease sued the federal government out of misplaced civil liberties concerns to stop the first test identifying the malady. While the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and National Gay Task Force failed in this ill-conceived legal campaign, pressure groups succeeded in encouraging New York City, an early epicenter for the disease, to institute a brief citywide ban on the lifesaving test.
Four days after the 9/11 attacks, a feeble-minded “patriot,” inebriated on alcohol and cable news, killed Mesa, Arizona store clerk Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh the gunman misidentified as a member of the Muslim religion, which itself was misidentified as sharing culpability in the atrocity that strangers of that faith committed.
More recently, Fox News, CNN, and other outlets have obsessed over a football “concussion epidemic.” New research published in Psychological Injury and Law blames “media hyperbole” for athletes experiencing symptoms—through what’s dubbed a “nocebo” effect—long after concussions normally wear off. “Prospective longitudinal studies clearly demonstrate that in the post-acute and chronic phases (i.e., two or more months following a concussion),” Rodney D. Vandenploeg, Heather D. Belanger, and Paul M. Kaufmann write, the post-concussion “symptoms are not related to concussion but instead are associated with accompanying acute post-traumatic stress and depression or anxiety disorders.”
Sometimes an overwhelming fixation on information harms more than misinformation.
The good news for Americans on orange alert over Ebola is that we equip our hospitals with modern equipment such as rubber gloves and toilet paper remains a favored hygienic tool in our homes. And the commander in chief has sent the U.S. Army, slayers of Nazis, Communists, and jihadists, to Liberia to help conquer the evil enemy Ebola.
Why not also send the national soccer team to Monrovia to defeat Ebola in a football match?
While the credentialed white coats have failed to discover a cure for Ebola’s debilitating impact on non-journalist Africans, scientific dabblings on my front-porch laboratory resulted in a breakthrough to alleviate Ebola’s effects on American journalists. Unfortunately, riots on the outskirts of St. Louis and airplanes disappearing from the skies necessitate a greater loss of American life than Ebola itself.