What would we ever do with ourselves if we didn’t have BIG SCARY VIRUSES or BIG SCARY TERRORIST PLOTS or some other sort of big scary monsters to worry about? Maybe we’d have to focus on getting our communities in order, talking to, and listening to our spouses, kids, neighbors and friends. We might also have to think about what we want our society to be like, not in terms of capitalism and socialism and other big theoretical concepts, but in terms of priorities. If we value life, and if we think people of all colors and lifestyles are of value, there are things we accept as a matter of course right now that are in direct conflict with our values. Perhaps it is this constant cognitive dissonance that leads us to jump on every big scary news story as if that is the most important worry we have.
What is Ebola virus? Well, it is a virus that causes a set of symptoms that kills ~50-90% of its victims, in the outbreaks we know about anyway, all of which so far have occured in Africa, in poor places without ample clean water and where standards of hygiene in hospitals and in the general community tend to make the diease easier to contract. Where there is no running water and dead bodies cannot be securely contained and destroyed before they infect others, and where many of the average ordinary residents do not even know what causes diseases. Sure, if Ebola gets established in the high density urban ghettos of our cities, it may kill quite a few people, but it has to get itself established first.
How do you protect yourself from contracting Ebola? Same way you protect yourself from contracting other diseases that are contracted through contact with bodily fluids. Don’t touch blood, vomit or other bodily fluids that are not your own without wearing gloves. Don’t kiss or have sex with an infected person. Don’t keep fruit bats or monkeys as pets or eat fruit bats/monkeys. Cook your meat thoroughly and be sure to use proper sanitation in cooking areas where meat is prepared. Wash your hands. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and just generally take care of yourself. All of this is not news. You’ve heard all this advice before. And, if you contract Ebola virus, stay hydrated, and you’ll be far more likely to survive. In the past 3 decades since outbreaks first popped up in Africa caused by this virus, do you honestly believe no particle of Ebola has ever left Africa till now? I seriously doubt it. But, with the standards for water quality, public sanitation, public health, hospital sanitation, etc. that we in the US and in many other parts of the planet take for granted, Ebola has probably only been just another disease that caused the occasional fever in whatever invisible cases have turned up outside Africa.
Will people panic anyway now that Ebola may have appeared in Hawaii, Dallas, Utah, or wherever is mentioned next by our ‘trusted’ news media? Of course. As a society I think we get off on these panics. Are we justified in panicking this time. I seriously doubt it. Drink some water, take a multivitamin, take a nap. Focus on developing technologies and systems to create a healthy, safe, supportive society for all of the humans in our area, and pour our energies into that project. A healthy, resilient, self-supportive society can handle whatever diseases turn up, including Ebola.