Why Ebola Scares Me

I get it. I understand that the odds of Ebola going out of control in this country and other countries with robust healthcare are basically slim to non. I understand that the flu kills many many more people each year, and that it’s much easier to spread. I get that I ought to be more concerned getting in my car each morning than I am about Ebola.

But the thought of this disease and what it could do still scares me to the core.

Don’t get me wrong–it’s not like I’m losing sleep over this. I’m far from panic mode. But a few years ago, a doctor friend of mine recommended a book to me: The Hot Zone. It’s all about what exactly Ebola does, and how serious we should take it. Written in 1995. In it, Preston describes in great detail what exactly happens to someone who gets Ebola or Marburg.

It’s an image that’s stayed with me ever since. Bleeding from the eyes is something you just don’t forget.

I also remember Preston discussing at length how all it would take is the wrong mutation for this virus to go air born, and then we’re all in a whole lot of trouble. And the more people catch it, the more of a chance this bug has to change and adapt into something hellacious.

(That said, I’m not an expert on diseases, and I realize Preston had to sell copies of his book, and you don’t sell copies by saying “the odds of this really happening are very remote. Can someone out there talk me off this ledge?)

The people who keep writing about how we shouldn’t be concerned about Ebola seem to be missing the obvious in their rush to prove how smart and unaffected by base emotions they are: Hollywood has been churning out movies about terrible diseases for years. Yes, you have Outbreak and the like, but you’ve got a plethora of zombie movies and shows in addition to that–and all of them start the same way: new disease wrecking havoc through the population.

History backs a lot of that up. The Spanish Influenza. The Black Death. Yellow Fever. Yes, these happened before today’s advances in medicine, but the people around at the time thought they were pretty advanced too.

I don’t have a solution to this problem, obviously. I don’t think we should be hitting the panic button anywhere. But I do think that people who are wagging their fingers and telling everyone not to worry about this should think twice before saying that.

But maybe I’m wrong. I really hope I am.

And on that happy note . . .

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