To put it in context for posterity, Dallas (the town in which I live) is Ground Zero for the US Ebola infection. A traveler from Liberia come over with the active virus, went to the hospital, was sent home despite having symptoms, came back later, and then the whole bloody thing (literally) turned into a horrific, twisted Benny Hill skit. Nurses were misinformed and misled about what kinds of procedures to follow since “common sense” is actually frowned upon in hospitals, and then there’s the case where one of the two confirmed Ebola-infected nurses went on a commercial flight to Cleveland while running a low-grade fever (low enough that it can’t even get you sent home from school).
Yes, this is bad. Yes, we’re going to see more cases, but please remember which side you’re on before you freak out.
If you’ve ever been to my Tuesday night class, you may have heard me mention that humans really only feel two basic emotions – love and fear. Every other emotion we feel (anger, elation, attraction, jealousy, etc.) are extrapolations, interactions, and expressions of these two emotions. They occur naturally through the course of our daily lives, but the funny thing about emotions is that they cannot make you do anything – you have to CHOOSE to do something with them.
In this particular case, I strongly encourage you – those who read this, whom I love – to prepare for things correctly and without fear. Make sure that you have some water stashed, make sure you have some solid staples in the cupboards, and make sure that you have a stocked medicine cabinet. This does not mean “BUY ALL THE FOODS AND WATERS AND BOTTLES!!!111!!!” It means, plan some meals, shop ahead, and make sure that you’ve got what you need in case you need to stay inside for a while.
And when it comes to Ebola specifically, do not fall for the bullshit. People are not rising up as zombies, and it is not technically airborne. I say “technically” because an infected patient who coughs can emit virus-loaded globs of spittle and mucus into the air, where it can hit someone else, and thereby spread the virus – and coughing is, indeed, part of Ebola – but it takes a BIG gob of spit because Ebola does not like air.
If there’s anything the internet is good for, it’s misinformation. I strongly recommend you go to the source and get the straight dope. Those against clicking, here’s the tl;dr version:
Symptoms of Ebola include:
- Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
- Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.
I bolded the part up there about the temperature. It has to be over 101.5°F in order to be contagious. That means that Nurse #2 in the credits was not contagious when she was running a low-grade fever.
Now then, what does this have to do with the Dark Side? The Dark Side is where fear rules, where decisions are made from a place of fear and anger. The Dark Side is the part that will run over little old ladies in order to get to the store to stock up on a bunch of canned goods that you don’t want and wouldn’t eat unless it was the end of the world. The Dark Side is actually not really in our nature as a whole. (Thank you to Cracked for saving the trouble of finding that article again.)
So, how can you face down the Ebolaclypse without going all Road Warrior on everyone?
First, common sense. Use it, live it, love it. If a disease is not airborne, a filter mask doesn’t help – any mucus particles significant enough that would get up your nose would also get into your eyes or any other opening in your skin. That’s why the folks who are supposed to be treating Ebola patients (which is to say, dealing directly with the blood, sweat, shit, piss, and snot that actually do transmit the disease) are using the high-end isolation suits. What does that mean for you? It means that if you are around someone with symptoms, be super-careful, wash your hands, and generally avoid their bodily fluids – all of their bodily fluids – but it’s still kind of hard to catch. Don’t be a jerk and lick them or anything because that’s asking for trouble and is also kind of gross.
Second, if you have symptoms that are consistent with the above list, don’t go to work, ferfucksakeimeanreally. Quarantine is not a joke because it protects you and everyone you love. Do you have Ebola? Probably not, but because we now have an uncertain vector for where it might have spread thanks to the aforementioned Benny Hill skit, don’t take chances. It’s better to have and not need, as they say, than need and not have. Hie thee, instead, to the ER and tell them in no uncertain terms that you have some symptoms consistent with Ebola. They will test you, and 99% of the time, the answer will be “What the hell were you doing eating three-day-old Taco Bell, anyway?!?”
“But what if everyone starts treating me like a plague rat and abandons me?! What if I came into contact with someone who had it or with infected bodily fluids and now I can’t hang out with my buddies? They’re going to treat me like a pariah!”
And, thanks to your sacrifice of a few days wherein you get to play video games and watch all the Netflix while drinking soup and shoving crisps down your boxers, just to show that you aren’t infected (or maybe you are), your buddies will be around to treat you like a pariah instead of them all being sick and possibly dying because you really did give them the plague (even though it was really probably just the flu or else that damn Taco Bell).
Ebola is so scary because it has such a high mortality rate for those who are under-treated. When people get help early enough, it’s totally treatable. The transmission rate in Africa is so high because of poor hygiene and body-handling funerary rites, something that we don’t suffer from here in the US where direct cremation is very common. Plus, it just looks awful because “hemorrhagic fever” means “lots of bleeding”. And that “high transmission rate” in Africa is still only about .0006% of the population – 9000 current confirmed cases out of an area containing roughly 15 million. (The entire African continent hosts 1.1 billion people.)
To put it into perspective, the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 – the one that killed 50 million people worldwide – infected 20% to 40% of the global population. I’m just sayin’.
So, the bottom line is, if you’re already prepared, worrying and freaking out isn’t going to help. If you’re not prepared, worrying and freaking out is still not going to help. Educate yourself with the real information as a remedy against worrying and freaking out. Fear is a terrible driver. Choose to deal with this interesting little moment of history with love and peace, and we’ll get through it just fine.