No one could have predicted that all the freaking out about Ebola was going to lead to overreaction and stupidity. Right.
A nurse returning to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone was rushed into quarantine in New Jersey because she showed a slightly elevated temperature. It turned out to be a false alarm and she does not have the virus. All well and good, you might say. Except for the fact that she was treated like she had knocked over a bank.
I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.
At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don’t have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”
After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”
My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.
I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?
Of all the things America and Americans do well, dealing rationally with a crisis is not one of them. The proportion of freakage over Ebola based on the number of people who have actually died within our borders is depressing, not to mention the allegedly responsible representatives in both the media and politics who are exploiting it for ratings and campaign contributions. It’s a small blessing that the governor of New York has seen some light on this subject and backed off his P.O.W. approach, but it’s also scary that the go-to source for information on Ebola comes from Wikipedia.
We can make fun of the idiots in Congress who demand that the president turn to crisis over the Surgeon General, a post that is vacant because the same idiots in Congress blocked his confirmation. We can shake our heads at the people who are proud to say they’re not scientists who declaim about the pathology of the virus. We can make money off the rubes who think that they now need to add hazmat suits to their doomsday collection, but in the end all of this overreaction makes us forget that people are dying in a distant land — or in a school cafeteria — and we’re incapable of dealing with it like rational people.