Ebolanoia: The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Ebola Fear Itself | WIRED.

Since Friday, there has been at least one instance a day of fear-based nuttiness:

  • A North Carolina school district forced an assistant principal to stay home for 21 days because she visited South Africa
  • Several universities cancelled talks by people from Africa or those who had visited lately
  • A Congressional candidate called for a citywide “no touching” edict in Dallas
  • People who happened to take the same cruise as an uninfected lab worker for the Texas hospital were denied jobs and told to stay home from school
  • Mississippi parents pulled their children from school because the principal had attended a family funeral in a part of Africa where there is no Ebola
  • An airline locked a vomiting passenger in a bathroom, and a subway station was closed on a claim of a “hemorrhaging Liberian woman” who turned out to be Haitian, and vomiting.
  • A GOP Congressman predicted that terrorists would use Ebola as a weapon, by allowing themselves to be infected in Africa and then smuggling themselves across the Mexican border.

Read the whole article – and calm down.  You’re not going to get Ebola.

It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post

Today we commemorate Columbus Day, an American holiday observed in some states, perhaps for Christopher Columbus’s perseverance and bravery rather than his geographical knowledge. In light of recent scares involving “potential Ebola cases” and air travel involving individuals who had been nowhere near the Ebola outbreak zone, it seems we all could use a little geography lesson.

via It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography and Ebola. – The Washington Post.

Face it, many places in Europe are closer to the Ebola outbreak than many places in Africa.

Greenland is actually about 1/14 the size of the African continent, but the misunderstandings perpetrated by old maps — plus cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages

perpetuate many misconceptions.

Hopefully geography classes will do their part in educating students about the continent.

Africa is big. Really big. As this resource from Boston University’s African Studies program shows, the combined land masses of the United States (including Alaska), Europe, and China are all smaller than the African continent.  The United States — including Alaska — would fit into Africa three times.

So although 3 tiny countries in West Africa are going through untold horrors, most of the massive continent is unaffected by Ebola.  Except economically.

Safari bookings are way down, because ignorant people have no idea how far Kenya is from the outbreak zone.

These actions are based in fear, not reality. We are faced with risk every day, and would be better suited to understand our relative risks if we appreciated where in the world some places are.

What are you most at risk for?  I bet it’s not Ebola.

Ebola in graphics

Ebola in graphics: The toll of a tragedy | The Economist.

Ebola still barely rates among the continent’s big killers. Far more deaths are attributable every day in west Africa to malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS. But the spread of infections means that death rates are rising fast: from four a day in August to 13 now.

Should you be worried – no.  Statistically you’re much more likely to be in a car accident, and you don’t even think about that.  But Ebola is disrupting all kinds of things within the countries of West Africa, especially farming and trade.  This could lead to seriously destabilized governments.

The major problem is the lack of healthcare, the poor infrastructure, and the fact that these are really poor countries.

Besides the awful toll in human lives, orphaned children, and starving people, it is also taking a (much less terrible) toll on the Western world.  We are implementing screening at major airports, a waste of money since infected but asymptomatic people will be passed through.  We must spend hundreds of thousands of healthcare dollars on potentially infected people who end up not having Ebola, and we increase the fear factor through ignorant media  pieces by people who have no idea of the consequences of what they are talking about.  Some people have called for a complete travel ban, which would make things worse, according to health officials.

Hopefully we’ll soon have a vaccine or a treatment that can stop Ebola in its tracks.  Until then, wear your seatbelt.

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