EBOLA HQ, Texas -- It was the cruise ship that did me in.
Like everybody else on the planet, I've been watching the public meltdown of Texas Health Presybterian Hospital Dallas and just kind of shaking my head. Presby is a respected institution with a lot of recognized programs, but you'd never know it if you're watching TV. And honestly, I have seen some BAD PR emergencies in my time, but this is a clusterfuck of such monumental proportions that I've never seen anything like it, except maybe when the Space Shuttle blew up, and I doubt I'll ever see anything like it again. I mean, it's just astounding. Every time I think we've hit the bottom of the barrel, it turns out that underneath it is a whole 'nother barrel. Emergency rooms turning away patients with potentially fatal diseases. Nurses treating a contagious patient without protective equipment. Piles of biological waste accumulating because no one knows how to deal with it. An entire pneumatic tube system possibly contaminated because some idiot sent a sample that way instead of walking it down, per protocol. Next up I'm expecting a couple of the nurses who treated the poor Ebola guy will get sick. Oh wait, that's already happened.
To some extent, people's fears of catching Ebola are reasonable. It is, after all, a highly fatal disease (this strain is 50-70% fatal, which is bad, but it can be and does get worse; some strains of Ebola are over 90% fatal). But what's infecting Dallas right now is a little thing we call mass hysteria.
Mass hysteria has an interesting history. In the Middle Ages, a number of outbreaks occurred among cloistered nuns, including an episode where an entire convent full of women began meowing like cats. In Salem in the 1600s, mass hysteria over suspected witchcraft led to the deaths of 27 people. In 1835, an erroneous news report suggesting that "bat men" had been discovered living on the Moon led to sightings of bat men all over Europe. More recently, in the United States, pandemonium broke out when a radio broadcast of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds was mistaken for news reports of an actual attack. And now, in Dallas, we have the Great Ebola Panic of 2014. Splatter everything you touch with hand sanitizer and don't come within three feet of anybody who might have once been in a graduating class with somebody who once worked at Presby.
As I was saying, it's the cruise ship that did me in. Okay, an infected nurse who was showing symptoms flew on a public plane. Yeah, that was bad, and yeah, I can see the people who sat near her on the plane being a little freaked out and maybe wanting to stay at home for a while to make sure they're not sick. But now we've got schools closing and buildings being scrubbed down with bleach. We've got people being kicked out of their offices. We've got elder statesmen howling about banning all flights to and from Africa. We've got a motherfucking cruise ship, for the love of God, being held off the coast of Belize because one passenger worked as a lab tech at the hospital where the first Ebola patient was being treated. And the United States Government is going to pay to air evac this person, who is not sick, has no symptoms, and who wasn't really at risk to catch anything anyway. I mean this is not reasonable, people. This is insanity. No, worse. It's mass hysteria. Next thing you know all the nurses will start meowing like cats.
I'd like to point out that it's actually rather difficult to catch Ebola, unless you're a nurse or someone else in close contact with the patient. You have to be splattered with bodily fluids of some kind to be at risk. This is gross, so I'll decline to elaborate, but shaking hands will not get you Ebola. Somebody sneezing in your vicinity will not get you Ebola. Touching something someone with Ebola has touched will not get you Ebola. You have to work at it. It's not as hard to catch as, say, AIDS, but the science is getting thrown out the window in favor of, once again, mass hysteria. And the more CNN drones on and on about the same three or four points of fact it's been droning on and on about for the past three days, the longer it's going to continue and the worse it's going to get. If this continues for long enough, anybody with a cold is going to end up arrested. We do NOT want to go there.
So. Everybody take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Very good. Take another one. Yep, just as deep as the last one. Let it out slowly. One more ought to do it. Deep breath. Let it out.
There. Feel better? I thought so.
Now STOP WATCHING THE EBOLA COVERAGE. Just stop doing it. Turn off the TV, don't listen to the radio, ignore the newspapers and do not, I repeat do not get on CNN and troll the chat boards. Just don't do this. It's very very bad. I speak as one who knows. In all seriousness, the more the media hypes this thing, the worse it's going to get. The best thing that could possibly happen would be for all of us to just accept that life itself comes with certain dangers, that probably 99% of us will never have to worry about catching Ebola, that the few who do already know who they are and are probably monitoring themselves, and that the rest of us would benefit hugely if we would all just chill the fuck out. Immediately.
On a point of personal irritation: Anderson Cooper's been in town for three whole days now, and he hasn't once been to my place for dinner and cheap sex. The nerve. I wonder if he's seeing someone else.