As sort of a follow-up to "The widening gyre," here's a longish Facebook post that I thought might be worth reposting here.
A break from my usual gloom 'n' doom:
Everyone is worried about Ebola in America. I'm a little worried too. But I'm not that worried. Because America is different from West Africa.
It's true that in West Africa the rate of infection doubles every three weeks. But that doesn't mean we're going to see that kind of exponential increase in the United States. West Africa is still a very primitive place. Not long ago a bunch of villagers burned down an Ebola clinic and brought all the patients home, insisting they were not really sick. They believed Ebola was a government hoax. In other cases, villagers have terrorized arriving health workers and forced them to flee. Their reasoning, apparently, is that the health workers show up wherever Ebola is found; therefore, if you get rid of the health workers, you won't get Ebola.
We in the USA may not be quite as scientifically sophisticated as we like to believe, but we are miles ahead of rural Africans, some of whom persist in killing "witches." True, our initial response to the outbreak has been chaotic and incompetent, and the Dallas hospital showed no common sense in handling the Duncan case. But the upside is that now we know what not to do. We are already organizing to do a better job in the future. And we will. Public pressure will become ever more intense, forcing officials to behave responsibly and intelligently, even if this is not their first inclination.
When people cite the exponential growth of Ebola in African outbreaks (a doubling every three weeks leads to 1,000 cases within seven months), they forget that rural Africans still practice unsafe burial practices, often live in unsanitary conditions, have limited access to medical care, and are seldom effectively quarantined even after they are obviously symptomatic. This is a part of the world where doctors routinely reused unsterilized needles not long ago - and maybe some of them still do.
Ebola is a challenge, but it's unlikely to become a true epidemic in the developed world. Fear-mongering headlines are actually useful if they prompt the authorities to raise their game. But it's not time to panic, and I don't think it ever will be.
I now return to my normal curmudgeonly dyspepsia.