Flippin’ Ebola: Please Stop

Wil McLaughlin, Columnist

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I swore to myself that I wouldn’t write anything about Ebola after I heard some girl at lunch tell her friend “Get away from me: You ratchet! You got Ebola!” Additionally, several members of my class have decided to argue with me about the issue, which has been quite aggravating. But here I am, writing about Ebola.

Regardless, I learned about the Ebola virus for the first time in Mrs. Coyne’s class when I read The Hot Zone (the book is currently being updated in light of the current situation.) It’s a pretty nasty bug, though it was not (and still isn’t) considered a major plague of the continent. Unlike HIV, tuberculosis, influenza and other nasties that kill millions a year, Ebola outbreaks are not that widespread. Ebola usually erupts in isolated areas, killing too quickly for it to spread. Additionally, the virus spreads through bodily fluid contact, a far less communicable method than other diseases. For those not up-to-date, this current Ebola outbreak has killed around five thousand as of this month.

However, the United States has finally begun efforts to stop the outbreak in West Africa. After caring for several Americans who contracted the disease while working in West Africa we had our first person to be diagnosed while living in America. Thomas Duncan, a Liberian national, traveled to Dallas, Texas to visit his relatives there.

Nearly everyone has called for a quarantine of the West African nations afflicted with the virus, and/or airport security checks for the signature fever and hemorrhaging. At first glance, this seems like a perfectly reasonable response.
The keyword in the sentence above was “seems.” Upon a closer investigation, The New York Times found that Duncan traveled through Belgium to get to the United States. After his hospitalization in Texas, he infected two nurses, both of whom are doing pretty well, given the nature of the virus. Last week, an American doctor who helped out in Guinea was reported to have the virus in New York City. As of now, no other cases have been reported to have stemmed from him.

As usual, fingers everywhere have pointed blame at others. Republicans point to Democrats, Democrats point to Republicans, etc. The media has completely overblown the proportions of the problem, leading to the widespread public panic. The ensuing fight has boiled down to whether we should ban West African travel to the U.S., have vigorous airport screening, or a combination of those two things.

We can quarantine this country and scan all the airports we want, but we cannot definitively stop the outbreak until we nip it in the bud (i.e, stop the outbreak in West Africa.) Let’s say we block all Africans from entering the U.S; all those immigrants and refugees go to Europe and infect people there. With cases in Europe, should we cut off trade and travel with them?
Heck, quarantine and isolation were invented and were used for a reason, but it’s more difficult to do now than it was ever before. The global age is here, and stuff gets around. In the 80s, governments everywhere tried to quarantine nations with known cases of AIDS, and that obviously didn’t go so well. A study called the restrictions “”ineffective, impractical, costly, harmful, and may be discriminatory.” The same could be said for travel barriers dealing with Ebola. Additionally, airport screenings with the SARS virus were completely ineffective in the 2006 scare in Canada. Invest in material that can actually treat and cure the virus, like drugs, vaccines and medical gear.

If we actually care about stopping the virus and protecting American citizens, we need to throw everything into stopping the spread in West Africa. Anything else is just a stopgap measure. As for the people of Danville getting Ebola, I’m going to quote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t panic.”

Personal Note: I’m more afraid of Mr. Slayton than Ebola. #tbh. #FEARFAIL

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Flippin’ Ebola: Please Stop