And so today Ebola continues to rage through West Africa and Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity that has been on the front lines fighting the epidemic there, is running out of resources and begging all nations to send immediate help as the numbers of infected continue to swell. Meanwhile here in the United States we are suffering an epidemic of rage and fear over the two cases of Ebola that have been contracted in our country.
A West African man came into a Dallas hospital sick with Ebola and two of the nurses who cared for him were infected. The man was extremely infectious and the nurses were not wearing Ebola-proof suits. Because the hospital didn't have any. Because the hospital had never had an Ebola case before. Up until a few weeks ago no hospital in this country had ever dealt with an Ebola case before.
But now we have these two along with three more, two medical workers and a photographer, who arrived from Africa with Ebola, and all five patients have been isolated and are being treated in state-of-the art hospitals that were built for just such an eventuality as an outbreak of a disease like Ebola.
Meanwhile the second nurse who caught Ebola is being demonized because she took a flight from Dallas to Cleveland while she was still feeling well and then flew back to Dallas a few days later while running a low fever.
Now the country is in a state of high alarm.
People believe that the traveling nurse is the Typhoid Mary - or Ebola Mary - who is going to ultimately be responsible for the plague they believe is imminent because she took that trip while infected.
Never mind that all the passengers and crew on both her flights, all the sales personnel and customers in the bridal store where she shopped for a wedding gown, and anyone she was anywhere near are now under watch by the Center for Disease control, as are all the students in the two schools in Ohio and Texas which closed because each had a student who was on the nurse's plane.
Never mind that the planes she flew on have been thoroughly disinfected.
Never mind that the CDC is now fine-tuning protocol for hospitals across the nation for dealing with future Ebola cases, including new guidelines for protective Ebola-proof wear for health care workers.
Never mind that the only way to catch Ebola is by direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is showing active symptoms of the disease.
Never mind all that, today people in this country are enraged and terrified of catching Ebola.
They are convinced that you catch Ebola if an infected person coughs or sneezes around you, even though coughing and sneezing are not symptoms of Ebola, and if an infected symptomatic person did cough or sneeze on you the spray would have to land directly in your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.
People are convinced that Ebola can live on surfaces like door knobs and hand rails and can be passed along on our money even though the virus can't survive more than a few hours outside its host.
They're afraid to fly because they believe an Ebola carrier might cough or sneeze or touch the same surface as them. They believe Ebola is airborne like a cold or flu.
And they're angry at the CDC and the government for not protecting us better from Ebola. But mostly they're afraid.
Politicians are having a hay-day-and-a-half stirring up this public fear and outrage, blaming the President, the CDC, the hospital, the nurses, using the Ebola crisis to score political points for themselves instead of being leaders working for the greater good of keeping Americans calm and informed and up-to-date on how we can protect ourselves and stay safe.
And this really makes me sick.
The World Health Organization predicts that by December there will be 5,000 to 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week in West Africa.
Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC, has said, "After all is said and done here, (tackling the disease at its source, West Africa) is the only way to truly and completely protect the health security of America -- and the world,"
Peter Piot, the Belgian microbilogist who discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, told CNN that,
"As long as there is a major epidemic in West Africa, the rest of the world is also at risk. That is an additional reason for providing assistance to stop the epidemic."
Still Piot, in agreement with other epidemologists, predicts that while there will be some cases in the United States, a major Ebola outbreak here is unlikely because of our resources and good health care.
But about 36,000 in the United States are likely to die from the flu this season because so many people won't get the flu shot.
They're not afraid of the flu.
1. "Flu Deaths Per Year", About Health, June 27, 2014
2. "Doctors Without Borders: We've 'Reached Our Ceiling,' Maxed Out Ebola Aid Resources", Huffington Post, October 15, 2014
3. "Nurse Traveled On Airline Before Falling Ill", The New York Times, Page 1, October 16, 2014
4. "Avoiding Hysteria, Ebola's Other Contagious Threat, Rests On Maintaining Trust", The New York Times, page 22, October 16, 2014
5. "The Most Destructive Ebola Myths, Debunked", The Huffington Post, August 11, 2014
6. "Ebola outbreak 'running much faster' than response", CNN, October 17, 2014