MakovskyTuesday, October 21, 2014
With a fatality rate that approximates 90%, the Ebola virus should have everyone’s attention. Not that we can avoid it. In the last few weeks, we’ve been exposed to round-the-clock, often terrifying coverage. It was a disease that we in the U.S. watched from afar—until last month when the U.S. experienced its first fatality and diagnosis. Since then, Ebola has become a focus topic of cable news coverage and has even been politicized on the mid-term election trail.
After the first U.S. Ebola fatality, two totally unrelated news stories broke: First, evidence surfaced that a nurse in Dallas with Ebola symptoms had taken a flight to Cleveland one day prior to her diagnosis. Second, the market indexes took a dive and investors unloaded many equities, including airline and related travel and vacation stocks. The Dow plunged 460 points by midday.
The two events joined market fear and disaster terror. The markets have, in fact, been rising without a correction, well, for nearly six years. Is this the correction? And is Ebola the unstoppable invasion that will breach our more than 19,000-mile-long border? These fears are intensified because both barely related events are happening at the same time. Even the coverage seemed to join the two when, in fact, the two are coincidental events.
Ebola is indeed a horror movie come to life. But before descending into Cold War bunker, we should remember that only one death from Ebola has occurred in the United States. In fact, according to one report in The New York Times, the risk of Ebola “remains vanishingly small in this country.”
This seems largely forgotten. Consider that in some years the flu has caused more than 30,000 deaths in the U.S., and barely got back-page coverage.
Over the next few weeks, effective and realistic communication from our nation’s leaders coupled with level-headed reporting will be essential. The media will not serve us well with panic similar to the anthrax scare of 2001. As anxiety hangs in the air, it’s important to keep in mind that the possibility of a West African-level outbreak is remote. Let’s replace panic with ingenuity to finding a vaccine, and institute effective protocols in our hospitals.
– Samantha DeLouya