Political Correctness and Ebola

Wednesday night, "CNN Tonight" guests Ben Ferguson and Van Jones both agreed on some things: that in light of the Ebola case in Dallas Texas, a travel ban is not called for, that Obama wasn't responsible for the person getting the virus, and that people are “overreacting”. Van Jones then went on to assert that Laura Ingraham was using “birther bait” when she suggested that Obama "…has an enormous amount of, I think, you know, core ties to the African continent. He's mindful of his own family history there... Come on, it doesn't make any sense not to have stopped these flights from coming in."

Van Jones said. “This is stupid, this is low. The World Health Organization, nobody has been saying we should be stopping planes coming here at this point.” He spoke with such certitude.  However, their main point was to “protect” the president against any criticism….. that means that anyone who is questioning his or his administration’s decisions regarding this subject,  must be called “stupid”, racist, and have their motives questioned  and summarily dismissed. 

Similarly, a popular writer stated “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we’ll see other cases here in the US, but, seriously: relax. We got this.” And further, “do not lose sleep about the potential for Ebola to spread across the US. It’s not going to.”

What is the message here? You are “stupid” to speak out about it (Ebola); there is no reason to know anything about it -- because “they got it”, they “know about it”, it is “under control”.  Finally, those who speak about it, question or worry about getting it and question why it is that we have no travel restrictions are not only stupid… such actions might be “racist”. The Washington Post even criticized the Newsweek magazine cover which features an image of a chimpanzee behind the words, “A Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a U.S. Epidemic.” What is “bushmeat?  It is the cooked, dried or smoked remains of a host of wild animals, it can be a chimpanzee, gorilla or monkey. It could also be a rat, deer or fruit bat. Often, it provides protein where nutrition is scarce. It can often be contaminated. Undaunted, the author tried to compare this meat to eating venison after deer hunting.

In addition to the discouragement of curiosity or concern, a few weeks ago, the president said:

“First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low. We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States. In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home. We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus. We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.”

The message: “We got this…..we have it under control” and certainly it was, until it was not. 

Thomas Eric Duncan, according to the New York Times, caught the disease in Liberia helping to carry a pregnant neighbor back from the hospital where she was turned away from the overcrowded Ebola ward. The woman died that night, early on Sept. 16. Her 21-year-old brother, who also helped carry her, died a week later in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Mr. Duncan was “lucky”, he caught the flight to Dallas, where he has a whole ward to himself and a team of doctors to cure him.

It was not here…. until it came. Nothing happens before “the first time” and then we find out that “they” don’t “have it down”. The CDC is now investigating a possibility of another case in Dallas as well as school children who might have come in contact with the stricken man. 

Ebola is a virus. We have some idea of how it is spread, and we do know that it involves the exchange of “bodily fluids” – ( sweat, urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen). It is also spread by direct contact with objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected body fluids or infected animals. Whether or not these fluids might also be airborne, is a matter of dispute, but remember when you sneeze, you release a certain amount of “bodily fluids” in the form of saliva or mucus. To speak with certitude or insulting references to racism and branding anyone who questions the spread of this disease as “stupid” is the height of stupidity. While “panic” is not the answer, neither is ignorance. A virus is not a respecter or race, color, religion, or political party affiliation. 

Here is what we do know: "Ebola is worsening in West Africa," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in announcing the advisory against "non-essential" travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. And facts are “stubborn things” -- the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1,552 people have died from Ebola and they admit that this might be an “underestimation”.   

South Africa has banned travelers from the three Ebola-hit West African nations, a government spokesman said on Thursday, after other countries adopted similar measures to prevent the deadly virus from breaching their borders. And other African countries have restrictions on their borders as well.

The White House said Wednesday it will not impose travel restrictions or introduce new airport screenings to prevent additional cases of Ebola from entering the United States.  They stated the present methodologies they have in place are sufficient.