10/15/14

Ebola . . .


There is a serious, serious health risk plaguing Americans today. I don't want to alarm anyone but while we slept and carried on something took hold that will kill as many as 1 in 76,000 of us. What is it? A swarm by bees and wasps. Don't laugh - not funny.

Seem unlikely? Okay . . . something more dangerous that lurks all around us? 1 in 37,000 of us will stab ourselves or be stabbed - FATALLY.

Still not alarmed? Fine, fine. 1 in every 1,400 of us will die from fire and/or smoke inhalation. You don't seem nervous . . . how about 1 in 7 from cancer or heart disease? Did you just quietly look around the room and take your odds? Sick bastard (which is code for "I like your style!").

We don't actively fear any of those things (well - most of us do not).

Yet something else that is (said to be) looming in the world . . . ebola. But, if you are feeling uneasy, here is the statistic you need to know. SO FAR only four Americans have been officially diagnosed with ebola (if my stats are correct) with only a few hundred more Americans under quarantine or even watch for potential development based on exposure.

Yes. Yes. Two Americans have died (one in July - an American citizen was in Africa visiting, got ill, and never came home and one, who brought the disease home deep inside him, a few days ago). So, to crunch the numbers - 1.34 (I'll round up) in every 100,000,000 (that is 100 Million if you are zero-challenged) has been diagnosed with the disease and 1 in every 150,000,000 of us has died.

Sure, sure . . . 50% of those that have been diagnosed have died! And that is where the problem begins. That number, out of context, is SUPER scary (fun fact - unless you are the Virgin Mary herself, you are not getting out of this world alive).

The American media and a handful of Americans (check out this delight that tried to bring a knife to the nuclear weapon testing range that is my Twitter feed . . . he quickly went back to re-Tweeting racist, sexist, and hateful things when pressed) are making this a real "thing" because, well, there is an appetite for it.

Let's be clear . . . Ebola is HORRIBLE. NO ONE wants Ebola (or cancer, or to die from smoke inhalation, or the death penalty, or wasp attacks) but how many people know what it IS?

Ebola, for those that have not dug past the headlines to learn, is a bodily-fluid spread (and ONLY bodily-fluid spread) disease that can hide in a human for two to 21 days. It starts out as a fever and sore throat. Before long you are throwing up and you might develop a rash. Your liver and kidneys will start to fail you. You will bleed (internally or externally). Between seven and sixteen days after the disease presents itself - you, statistically, are dead (70% of those in the current epidemic in Africa have died) from organ failure and/or shock. If you are "lucky" enough to fight through the disease, it is because medicine, tender-loving-care, luck/intervention of the divine/etc. (depending on your belief system) have kept you alive and your body overcame its attacker. You have the ultimate bar tale to tell and I want to buy you a beer and hear it.

In the meantime let's alllllllll relax.

Some other numbers that you might care about (if you are worried about ebola here on planet earth). As of 10/8 (sorry - the stats are hard to come by) there were:


  • 7,500 cases have diagnosed ebola in SEVEN of the world's countries:
  • Liberia - 3,875
  • Siera Leone - 2,400
  • Guinea - 1,200
  • Nigeria - 20
  • United States - 1 three of the cases "here" were brought back from Africa)
  • Senegal - 1
  • Spain - 1 (and MOST running from the disease are heading to Spain so keep that in context)

That means about 0.000001% of the world's population has ebola and 0.0000005% of the world's population has died from it. For context . . . 0.000002% (double the ebola deaths) will die or be wounded while going to, attending, or traveling home from a sporting event in 2014.

WAY more likely to scare you . . . in the same time as this outbreak (now in month four) cancer, bike accidents, serial killers, ladder falls, suicide, drunk driving, negligence, poor home repair of a glitchy electrical outlet, and forest fires have all killed more people (individually and/or combined).

Yet here you sit . . . reading this blog . . . not worrying about a thing. As you should be.

I don't mean to diminish the dead or their value (there is nothing above that does that) and I don't mean to mock the scared or overcautious (there is lots above that does that) but I do think that we need to be more contextual and less scared. There MAY be a time and place for ebola-based panic - it is not today and it is not the United States.