I hate to admit it, but I had Ebolamania. I first noticed the symptoms a week ago. I found myself worrying about being in large crowds for fear someone might have Ebola. I soon began to incessantly use hand sanitizer. I even wondered if I could put some Purell on my fingers and insert them into my nose to kill germs. (I wouldn’t recommend it!)
My Ebolamania really took hold of me this past weekend as I sat on a plane flying to California. Every time I heard a person sneeze, visions of the pink and blue Ebola cells that are constantly on cable news danced through my head.
I highly doubt I was the only one on that plane suffering from this affliction. After all, the media and certain politicians – okay, Republicans - had done everything they could to make it seem like Ebola was going to kill us all.
Some have tried to offer us an antidote to Ebolamania. For example, The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky penned a must read article over the weekend about why Americans need to stop wetting their pants over the Ebola threat. (He said in a much more articulate way.)
But for those not buying words of reassurance, we now have objective evidence that might just cure your Ebolamania. I know it helped me.
On Monday, 43 people who had come into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died in a Dallas hospital on October 8 from Ebola, have all been declared Ebola free.
How can we be sure these people don’t have Ebola? Science. Okay, I know that for some on the right “science” doesn’t mean much, but for the rest of you, Ebola has a 21-day incubation period. That time period has now passed and none of the 43 people who came in contact with Duncan have the disease.
True, some of these people only had casual contact with Duncan. But others had intense, hands on interaction with Duncan while he was horribly ill. The most notable being Duncan’s fiancé, Louise Troh, her son and two nephews, who all lived with Duncan in a Dallas apartment since he had arrived in the United States on September 20.
Within days, Duncan became very ill. He was vomiting, had diarrhea and a high fever. In fact, his condition was so alarming that Troh took Duncan to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 25. However, for reasons still unclear, the hospital personnel sent Duncan home despite his 103 fever and other symptoms.
Over the next two days, Duncan became even more ill, with his fever climbing to 104 degrees. Finally, on September 27, Troh’s daughter, a nurse’s aide, called 911 to have an ambulance transport Duncan to the hospital after she connected his symptoms to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia.
Here’s the key info for those with Ebolamania. Between Duncan’s arrival in Dallas on September 20 and hospitalization on September 27, Duncan shared the same space as Troh and the three boys while he was gravely ill. We are talking sharing the same bathroom, food plates, blankets, etc. All without wearing any type of bio hazmat protections.
And not one of them is sick. Nor is Troh’s daughter who sat by Duncan’s bedside and cared for him the day he was finally hospitalized.
Now that we know this info, how will the GOP and media respond?
Keep in mind just last week Rand Paul painted Ebola as being akin to the Black Death with comments like, “it’s an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it’s hard to catch.” Adding, “we have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down and taking every precaution.” (Actually, only two nurses had contracted the disease, zero doctors. But why should facts matter when trying to scare people into supporting your run for President?!)
We even had Republican Senator Ron Johnson opine that ISIS fighters might infect themselves with Ebola and come to America to spread the disease. The problem with this claim is that Ebola is only contagious when the disease’s symptoms have manifested, meaning you will be vomiting and have uncontrollable diarrhea. And then, while gravely ill, you will need to wipe your bodily fluids on people hoping the disease somehow enters the person's system. Doesn’t seem like Ebola is the ideal choice for a weapon.
In any event, don’t count on the GOP toning down its rhetoric or even mentioning the 43 people who were exposed to Duncan are now Ebola free. After all, Republicans love to use fear, it’s two weeks before the midterm elections and a new Politico poll released Monday found that Ebolamania is playing well for the GOP.
Okay, so then what about the media? Will they cover these 43 people with the same zeal they covered the two nurses who contracted Ebola? Nah. This story has been barley mentioned in the media over the past two days. Fear sells, it attracts ratings; assurances that all will be fine, not so much.
The greatest hope for those with Ebolamania is self-inoculation. Read the details about how Duncan’s fiancé and her family didn’t catch the disease even though Duncan was gravely ill while living with them in a small apartment. Pay attention to the 43 others exposed to Duncan who don’t have Ebola.
Also keep reminding yourself that to date, only 2 Americans out of the 300 plus million of us have caught Ebola. Add to that, Nigeria was declared Ebola free on Monday after an outbreak began there in July.
Perhaps these facts will prove to be the antidote for those suffering from Ebolamania. As we now know, Ebolamania is far easier to catch than Ebola. Thankfully, it can also be far easier to cure.
Dean Obeidallah is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer. He's a columnist for The Daily Beast and the co-director of the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" You can follow Dean on Twitter.
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