Posted by howard in nyc
Well, three cases now. The New York Times had assured us as recently as Tuesday that experts state the chances of ebola reaching the US were extremely small. (That statement has been removed from the NYT website.)
I am anticipating tons of misinformation, for the most part unintentional, on both the overly 'no big deal' and the 'time to freak the fuck out' ends of the spectrum. I have no idea which end is the correct choice at this time.
The dynamics of such an infectious pandemic are beyond my experience and understanding. For the AIDS, I had a front row seat and I know that one, but that was a very different ballgame (much more difficult to transmit, incubation period of years.) But I'm learning as fast as I can.
I have no idea if the approach of isolation, symptomatic and supportive treatment, and allowing the spread to burn itself out is worthy of confidence or of panic. I am not clear on the ease or difficulty of transmissibility (considering some workers in full hazmat gear have been infected.) I do not understand the dynamics of spread in a large, dense city like Dallas or DC as opposed to the villages and modest urban areas of West Africa. I have no idea if the CDC is doing a fantastic job, or are a bunch of bumbling happytalk fools dooming us to a mass death episode (or if their efforts are largely irrelevant.)
The fact that while China and Cuba sent hundreds of doctors to West Africa to work to stop this pandemic, while our government sent thousands of soldiers doesn't fill me with hope. Seems representative of our general mindset.
Regardless of the actual threat level, I anticipate a rapid swing from too-calm complacency to full-on freak out, complete with militarized trampling of laws and freedoms in the interest of public health. (Again, I have no idea if such a freak-out is right or wrong, warranted or not.) Already in Dallas the finger-pointing wrt discharging the patient from the hospital, and authorities not allowing a cleanup crew to properly dispose of contaminated materials are signs of freak out.
I bet we in the developed world will have our own behavioral answers to the irrational violence directed against aid workers and hospitals in Senegal and Liberia seen in the past weeks. Same level of irrationality, different flavor of expression is my guess.
That we as a society, and our governing authorities, are going to act stupid is a pretty easy and safe guess. Now the tough guess--how bad is this gonna get? With minimal information, knowledge about such things nor experience, I'll wild-ass it that it will be scary but not too bad, a few hundred deaths before burning out. And the resultant panic will have significant economic and other societal bad effects, but will be blamed for much much more should this pandemic coincide with the next phase of financial panic and collapse.