Infected With Ignorance

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 17 2014 @ 3:15pm

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Aaron Blake flags a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing that most Americans don’t know – or don’t believe – that Ebola can only be transmitted by patients who already have symptoms:

In addition, 25 percent of Americans wrongly think that Ebola can be transmitted through the air, and 37 percent think it can be transmitted by shaking hands with someone who isn’t symptomatic. Both of those are wrong, per the CDC. Could some of these folks be aware of the science and the CDC’s assurances and just not believe them? Sure. There are certainly some doubters out there, even in the scientific community, who think the CDC’s blanket assurances might be premature. But even if those doubters are correct that you can’t quite rule out transmission from a person who isn’t showing symptoms, the lack of a negative doesn’t necessarily prove a positive. In other words, there is still no data to support the belief of 48 percent of Americans, even if you think what they believe can’t be completely ruled out.

The area of northeastern Ohio where Ebola patient Amber Vinson had visited her mother just days before being diagnosed is displaying what officials are calling an “abundance of caution” and others might call an overreaction:

Two Cleveland-area school districts shut down entirely on Thursday, citing one teacher who had unspecified contact with an infected patient and another who was on a different flight “but perhaps the same aircraft” as Vinson — a step that public health officials deemed unnecessary. Ohio health officials also issued new guidelines on Thursday that go well beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended: The state says that even those who’ve exchanged a simple handshake with an infected individual should be quarantined for 21 days if they’re not wearing protective gear, even though the disease is not airborne and cannot be transmitted through casual contact. Ohio officials also recommend that those who have been “within a three-foot radius” of an infected individual for a prolonged time should monitor themselves — warnings that could further stoke fears of the disease’s contagion.

America: land of the free and home of the completely terrified at all times. The outbreak, such as it is, has become a bonanza for suppliers of the doomsday community:

In the past week, preppers-turned-entrepreneurs Fabian Illanes and Roman Zrazhevskiy say they have seen sales of gas masks and their harrowing-sounding NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) kits skyrocket. “Tripled is probably an understatement,” Illanes says. Their company, Ready to Go Survival, sells prepacked survival, or “bug out,” bags and kits. As fears of Ebola grow, they’ve been filling $1,000 orders of gas masks for whole families.

Illanes, who recently moved to Texas from New York, says he imagines a time when Manhattan might shut down all access into and out of the city. “If I’m in a car with my family and each of us has gloves, masks, and bodysuits, and there’s a regular family in a car next to us—who do you think the people controlling borders are going to feel more comfortable letting through?” he asks. In response to the calls they’ve been receiving, they’re putting together a “pandemic kit” that will provide quick full-body protection and will go on sale late next week.

And then there’s the Halloween industry:

The latest in hysteria-deflating perspective comes from Philip Bump, who offers a brilliant illustration of just how unlikely it is that you or I will come into contact with the roughly 0.000001 percent of Americans who currently have the virus, and from Max Fisher, who points out that we are more likely to be killed by our own furniture:

Threat to Americans: According to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, just under 30 Americans are killed every year by “tip-over,” which is when “televisions, furniture, and appliances” fall onto their owners. The report also found that over 40,000 Americans receive “emergency department-treated injuries” from tip-over every year.

Worst-case scenario: This is America. We can always find ways to make a bigger, heavier, deadlier TV.

How freaked out should you be: Council on Foreign Relations scholar Micah Zenko found that tip-over kills about as many Americans per year as terrorism does, and injures many more. In theory, then, you should be just as freaked out by tip-over as you are by terrorism. Based on the fatality rate, you should be much more freaked out about tip-over than you are about Ebola.

Then maybe this lady is just trying to protect herself from the chair: