Ebola Victims Are Being Treated Terribly & It Needs to Stop Now

EbolaWhen Kaci Hickox returned from Sierra Leone, where she'd been treating patients with Ebola for Doctors Without Borders, she didn't expect to be thrown into quarantine against her will after coming home to the United States. But that is exactly what happened when she came through Newark Airport showing signs of a slight fever. For three days, she was kept in isolation. 

She plans to file a federal lawsuit. And with this news, it is official: We have gone too far.

For the past few weeks, Ebola has been front and center in in the news. Could we get it? Are we at risk? Can we fly? Can we get it from a bowling alley? Answers: Not really. Barely. Yes. And come ON. Really?

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The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia is tragic and horrible. So far, it has killed thousands and just this past day or so has spread to neighboring Mali. But no one seemed to care when only West Africa was affected. Now that is has come to America, everyone is freaking out.

Let's get the facts straight:

You are FAR more likely to get the flu or enterovirus than ever even be near an Ebola patient in this country. Again, for those who seem unable to grasp it: Ebola is spread either through DIRECT contact with blood or secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects that have been in contact with secretions of an infected person. The CDC and World Health Organization say Ebola victims do not become contagious until they start showing symptoms.

So while it is true that Dr. Craig Spencer -- the Doctors Without Borders physician who got it in New York City -- may have been contagious when he went bowling last week and took an uber cab, it is also SO unlikely that anyone else contracted it too, even if the bowling alley hadn't closed down to clean the premises. You also are not going to get it from the subway. Or on a plane. Or on a train. Or on a bus. Or in a car. You aren't going to get Ebola anywhere. Do you understand me, Sam I am?

Everyone seems to be collectively having a fit over the potential transmission of a disease that, as yet, has only sickened a few people in the United States. They are vilifying the doctors and nurses who are risking their lives to go over to the truly at-risk parts of the world and treat people, and they are panicking over nothing.

How about if, instead, we say a collective thank you to these brave souls who are willing to risk life and limb to care for people on the other side of the world? Because guess what? Those lives matter. They mattered earlier this year when Ebola was barely a blip on any American's radar, but so many were dying. They mattered when the illness has reared its ugly head in the past. And they matter now that this is spreading like wildfire.

For those who want to ban travel, here's some news: It won't work. According to Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Isolating countries won’t keep Ebola contained and away from American shores. Paradoxically, it will increase the risk that Ebola will spread in those countries and to other countries, and that we will have more patients who develop Ebola in the US. People will move between countries, even when governments restrict travel and trade.

So there you have it. There are plenty of things to be angry about when it comes to Ebola, but the people on the ground fighting this illness should not be the primary target. Be angry at the cable news networks, which have gone from constantly talking about a missing Malaysian jet to constantly fear-mongering over the threat of Ebola. Be angry about people who didn't care about this disease when they thought it only affected "others." Be angry about the way this panic is hurting small businesses like the bowling alley where Dr. Spencer spent his last night before getting his diagnosis.

But don't be angry and bash the people like nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, both of whom contracted Ebola after volunteering to treat Thomas Eric Duncan once he'd caught Ebola in Liberia and brought it to Texas. Don't be mad at Dr. Spencer or Kaci Hickox. They are so brave. They are risking themselves and saving lives.

Can any of us say the same?

Are you afraid of getting Ebola?



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