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Ebola is in the United States, now what?


No, seriously. The answer to “now what?” is “nothing”. There’s nothing for us to worry about. As I wrote in the previous post on the subject, the common person in America should not be worried about Ebola. That’s not to say that we’re not. The media are doing a heck of a job at stirring everyone into a frenzy about it. And that’s just the “mainstream media.”

Social media is also chock-full of misinformation and outright lies about the patients being brought back for treatment in the United States. Plenty of people seem to believe that the patients would not receive better care here than in the hospitals in Western Africa. Or they believe that a “pandemic” will be triggered if Ebola starts spreading here. Among them are the usual suspects:

Yes, people who give up their privileged lives in the US of A should “suffer the consequences.” They should suffer the consequences of not being millionaire loudmouths like Donald Trump, writing these things from the comfort of his home, having more than likely never physically lifted a finger to help a human being. (Is he even a millionaire anymore?) Others think that the patient that came back yesterday (August 2), Dr. Kent Brantly, should be ashamed of himself: Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.09.42 AM

That tweet was sent to me by someone who claims to have once served in the Marine Corps and is now a “federal agent” of some kind. You would think that he knows about service about and self-sacrifice and about how we, in America, don’t leave anyone behind. I countered by telling him that Dr. Brantly is a hero, and to get off my case about it. (Then I blocked him.)

There are plenty of examples of others on social media just losing their minds about two patients with Ebola coming to the United States, while completely forgetting or ignoring or not knowing about the other cases of hemorrhagic fevers that have come here. Look, no pandemic! We’re fine. We survived.

So what are they going to do for Dr. Brantly and the other patient here that would be different than what would be done for them in West Africa?

Probably a lot. For starters, Emory University Hospital is a nationally ranked hospital that has very close ties to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They will probably designate a special team of infectious disease providers, nurses and techs to work exclusively on Dr. Brantly. They will have nothing else on their minds, be in an air-conditioned suite, and have a team of infection prevention specialists overseeing their efforts and making sure that they follow the protocols necessary to care for their patient and not be infected themselves or pass it on to other patients. Also, looking at the images of Dr. Brantly walking into the hospital on his own two legs is very encouraging. It tells me that he’s probably not spewing blood and other body fluids left and right, so the chance of him contaminating others is minimal.

Basically, Emory University Hospital is not this clinic as described by Doctors Without Borders:


The supportive care that Dr. Brantly will receive will be much, much better than what the typical patient in West Africa will get. I write that with mixed feelings because I’m glad for him but sad that such an easily preventable disease will take out all those people, many of them dying because they won’t get the supportive care available in our facilities over here. But, by an accident of history and geography, that’s the hand they were dealt, and we must do all we can to help them “over there”.

Support Doctors Without Borders

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the many people who think that bringing Americans back to be taken care of here is a bad idea, I want you to do a couple of things for me. First, check your privilege, meaning that you’re not in a position to opine about these things because you’re neither the person who is sick nor the person taking care of them in the West African setting. You’re privileged enough to be able to sit in front of a computer and read conspiracy theory sites about how Ebola is airborne or will become airborne or will kill us all or something. Unless you’re sick with Ebola or taking care of a person with Ebola, I need you to shut up.

Second, just shut up. We have bigger fish to fry than to tend to your paranoia.

Finally, this:


Where’s Donal Trump’s outrage at the anti-vaccine groups that scare people away from the influenza vaccine?

If you really want to scare the public, you need to be aware of the relative risk of things. As you can see, Americans are far more likely to die from the flu each year than from Ebola. So check your numbers.


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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

9 replies

  1. Well, there is a *slight* risk a lab worker may become contaminated, but it is so slight as to be essentially impossible.

    Still, when someone did suggest we keep I’ll citizens out, I asked when we began the u constitutional practice of exiling U.S. citizens.
    Defensive sputtering and disclaiming ensued.


  2. The risk to workers in the US is negligible. We have the appropriate means and measures to ensure a nearly zero chance of transmission from patient to doctor.

    The situation in Atlanta with isolation of the one Dr is worlds apart from the reality of containment in Africa – where plastic sheeting, subpar or reused suits and sharps are commonplace.


  3. Thank you for some sanity. Its amazing how many want to condemn people to die all because they had the temerity to try and help people across the globe. Its rather frightening to see how many are giving in to their most basic instincts, complete and irrational fear of the unknown, absurd conspiracy theories about a disease that pales in comparison to malaria, tuberculosis and many others.

    We as Americans are better than this, we don’t condemn people to die just because of some far-fetched, irrational fears, or at least I used to think we were.

    Liked by 1 person

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