Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nothing like a good plague to shake everyone up

The "Ebola Panic" is playing out like some bad made-for-television movie of the 70s.  A scare generated for no other purpose than to influence this year's midterms, as conservative pundits have been attracted to the outbreak like proverbial flies to shit, but mainstream pundits also hover around this faux pile of fears like fruit flies, fighting for their little piece of the action.

Of course, it doesn't help when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) starts questioning itself and rushes an infected nurse at the 11th hour to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to be given special treatment she apparently couldn't get in Dallas.  The given was a lack of proper hazmat suits in Dallas.  Nina Pham is reportedly in good condition.

However, the sudden move was covered like O.J. Simpson's slow moving "getaway" on television, with commentary every step of the way, which makes you wonder if these news channels don't have anything else to talk about.  Coverage has been at times comical, with CNN inviting Robin Cook, best known for his medical thrillers, to comment on a possible pandemic in the wake of this latest "outbreak."  After all, he wrote the book on the subject.

Unlike AIDS, which did reach pandemic levels in the 1980s, Ebola has remained contained, but still firebrand ministers find ways to make this "plague" God's way of punishing someone.  Politicians have brazenly linked Ebola to immigration reform, and demanded visas and flights from stricken African countries be cancelled.  Of course, the news media quickly picks up on these rants, adding more fuel to the fire.

It seems like Americans love a good panic.  News ratings have soared, with Shep Smith surprisingly offering a "voice of reason"on the media-induced hysteria.  It seems Shep has become the go-to guy at Fox to let everyone know when enough is enough.  Still, Shep made sure to link Democrats to the panic.

Yes, it is another political-motivated panic meant to elicit fear in the unsuspecting public, with much of the blame being foisted on the Obama administration.  Who else?  However, Shep failed to mention that Obama has reacted to the "crisis" much faster than did Reagan, who virtually ignored the AIDS pandemic until it was too late.  I guess dear old Ronnie was trying to keep the public calm in the face of the most pervasive epidemic in modern history.

Ebola pales in comparison to AIDS, in large part because the world health community has stayed on top of the viral disease.  There have been several outbreaks since Ebola was first reported in 1976, including this case in the United States in 1990, but each time health officials contained the spread, and it is very likely they will do the same again despite the much higher number of cases in stricken West African countries.

The problem is that when you see health officials running around in hazmat suits it can't help but stir up panic, and any number of conspiracy theories are bound to ensue.  However, it would be nice if we could keep Ebola out of religion and politics.

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