Acting like idiots about Ebola

Now that the media have a done a bang-up job of scaring the bejeesus out of everyone about the possibility of contracting Ebola, one can expect some foolish people to realize how easy it is to cause panic and take advantage of it to cause mischief.

By now you might have heard the story about the passenger on a flight from Philadelphia to the Dominican Republic who sneezed and then shouted that he had Ebola and had just been to Africa and that all the passengers were now doomed. Needless to say, this triggered all manner of precautions, with the passengers stuck on the ground for two hours while workers wearing protective gear got on the plane and removed the man.

Naturally, other passengers took out their phones and recorded the events.

My immediate thought was that the man must have been either drunk or was young, the two risk factors for doing something stupid. But neither seemed to be the case. What impressed me about the video is how the flight attendant on the speaker was calm and professional, and seemed to have gauged the passenger correctly, saying straight out that she thought the man was an idiot, an accurate diagnosis. I think her matter-of-fact attitude helped to keep the passengers calm too. What surprised me is that the health workers did not put the man in a protective suit immediately but let him get his carry-on bag and walk off.

Of course, one does not have to be on a plane to act like an idiot. A bus passenger in Los Angeles pulled off a similar stunt but quickly got off the bus and authorities are now looking for him.

The story of the nurse who treated the Ebola patient in Dallas and then flew on commercial flight to Cleveland on October 10 and returned on the 13th while having a slight rise in temperature that signaled the onset of the disease has only served to increase the scare because it raises doubts about the competence of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where the first Ebola victim was treated and died, to take proper precautionary steps. CDC officials are now saying that she should not have been allowed to board the plane although her temperature of 99.5o was then below the threshold of 100.4o that triggers precautionary measures.

This scare will blow over, at least in the US. What worries me is the spread of the disease in West Africa. They desperately need health care professionals and supplies to deal with the problem, It is heartening to hear a report of the many health workers in the US who are volunteering to go that part of the world to help, although they are facing many hurdles to doing so. While the US military has sent soldiers to the region to build treatment units, I have not heard of it sending members of its large medical corps there, which surprises me since they would have the skills and materials to quickly deal with medical crises.


  1. raven says

    because it raises doubts about the competence of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas..

    It doesn’t raise doubts.

    Texas Presbyterian wasn’t competent to take care of an Ebola patient. They had numerous failures of protocol starting at the beginning.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I think they should take airplane guy at his word. Lock him in solitary confinement medical isolation for 21 days, no TV, no phone, no entertainment of any kind. Just four walls and his own big mouth to contemplate.

  3. busterggi says

    Ebola doesn’t scare me but the fact that my co-workers here in a health department, including nurses, are buying into right-wing hysteria -now that scares me.

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