Ebola Paranoia is spreading faster than the disease itself. Let’s try to maintain some sense of perspective.
Many Queenslanders have been severely on edge during the past two days, eagerly awaiting the test results of a Cairns nurse who recently returned from West Africa. The nurse, Sue Ellen Kovack, spent the last few months working with Red Cross at an Ebola facility in Sierra Leone and developed a fever within the incubation period of 21 days, sparking major concern across the country that the deadly virus had arrived on our shores and that impeding zombie domination was imminent.
It was the second bout of outraged panic in as many months, however, after a Gold Coast man was tested for Ebola (the tests came back negative). This morning, our fears were put to rest once again when Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young confirmed Ms Kovack’s initial tests were negative, and reiterated that Ebola is not a threat to the broader community of Australia. We can call off the fuel-air bomb for
Cedar Creek Cairns, guys!
Today Queensland Health and The Red Cross have reminded us to rest easy. They say the epidemic really poses no threat to you, and that this case, as well as the incident involving the 27-year-old Gold Coast man last month, is proof of just how efficient Australia’s health systems really are.
Unsurprisingly, within hours of the first reports about Kovack’s potential infection, news and social media platforms were flooded with Ebola fear mongering. MP Bob Katter, a bastion of rational thinking, labelled Ebola Aid workers as “selfish”, in spite of their humanitarian efforts, for putting Australia at risk.
It seems every time the threat of Ebola is mentioned in our sunny state, Queenslanders magically morph into Helen Lovejoy, complete with pearl clutching and indignant cries of ‘won’t somebody think of the children?’ spilling from their lips. Panic devours us, with parents insisting on keeping their kids home from school and members of the community confining themselves to their homes.
People were legitimately afraid of contracting Ebola on the streets of Oz, even thousands of kilometres from where Kovacks was being treated in Cairns. This is a virus which is not airborne, unlike other infectious strains such as the common cold or the flu. In fact, Ebola can only be contracted by contact with physical secretions of a victim — i.e. exposure to open wounds, bodily fluids, bites etc.
Ultimately, this major overreaction to Ebola in Australia is fairly laughable. University of Queensland virologist Associate Professor Ian Mackay describes the risk to public health, even if a Queensland patient was actually infected, as “virtually zero”.
Of course, the same cannot be said for the thousands of victims spread mainly throughout North and Western Africa, in particular Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, with the death toll worldwide currently nearing 4,000 (over 8,000 victims have been infected in total). Ebola is definitely a major international concern, no question — but it’s not likely to be contracted in the Queen Street Mall.
For the closest and only exposure to Ebola many Australians will ever face, I recommend living vicariously through some classic medical emergency blockbusters like Outbreak, 28 Days Later and Contagion.
Need I remind you of some of the issues our little slice of paradise currently faces, each of which pose a greater threat to you personally than Ebola?
- The world Kale shortage
- Killer magpies
- High-waisted bikini bottoms and the horrendous tan-lines that ensue
- Life after The Bachelor
- The All Blacks
- The entire “fitspiration” movement
- Catfish (Be afraid)
By all means, Ebola is undoubtedly going to be at the forefront of our minds for a while longer, but we can’t live in fear — and we can’t let those “selfish” volunteers wanting to provide aid to the relief effort be deterred by the events of this week.