Keep Calm and Carry On

Here are a few things that have happened since Ebola arrived in the United States:

  • CNN and other cable news outlets seem to have become “all Ebola all the time” with breathless reports about the latest twists and turns
  • A grade school banned a teacher from the classroom because she had visited Dallas
  • A photojournalist who had travelled to the affected area (and was well) was denied the opportunity to give a talk to a University audience
    Parents in Mississippi kept their children home from school because the principal had visited Zambia

People all across the country seem to be in a growing frenzy about the virus. On one hand, I get it. The disease is awful, the CDC seems to have fumbled in its management of the situation and in its messaging, and the disease rages on in a few countries in West Africa. On the other hand, a lot of this is just, well, nuts.

Don’t educational institutions have an obligation to educate instead of catering to ignorant fear? How about a little geography lesson for those kids in Mississippi? Maybe they (and their parents) would have felt better if they were told that Zambia is farther from Liberia than Mississippi is from Dallas. Sadly, I know, maybe not.

Some of this nonsense is just human nature. We pay an inordinate amount of time and attention to low (very low!) frequency but high consequence events. Everybody fears getting struck by lightening or attacked by a shark, but thinks nothing of driving on a highway, where the risk of death or serious injury is much higher. People drink bottled water out of fear of “chemicals” and then have a cigarette.

Sure, healthcare organizations need to plan for all kinds of things we hope won’t ever happen, and I am proud to say that North Shore-LIJ is working to make sure that if we are called upon to care for someone with Ebola, we can do so effectively and without endangering the caregivers. But if you really want to do something for your health, or advise others to safeguard theirs, then stop worrying about Ebola and do some things that will make a real difference like wearing your seatbelt, getting a flu shot, and going for a walk.

And if you want to do something to help the terrible situation in West Africa, where Ebola really is a problem, then send money to organizations that are working to help, such as Doctors Without Borders or the CDC Foundation.

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