When Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins learned that, for all intents and purposes, the Ebola virus scare has ended, he said:
I’ve seen and heard of horses spooked by a snake and go running and that’s probably a really good idea if you’re a horse.
I’ve seen and heard of horses spooked by a beer can. And beer cans don’t usually attack horses very often. So there’s not much reason for running from a beer can.
This [Ebola scare] is more of a beer can than a snake.
With Monday’s announcement by the World Health Organization that Nigeria is now officially free of Ebola infections, followed by the announcement that same day that the 43 people who had direct or indirect contact with Thomas Eric Duncan were now out of quarantine, and the safe return of the Carnival Magic from its cruise – dubbed the “Ebola cruise”– public officials are breathing easier even if they flubbed the metaphor. Said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:
We are breathing a little easier, but we are still holding our breath.
Duncan, the personal driver for the general manager of Safeway Cargo, a Fed Ex contractor in Liberia, left Monrovia on September 19, with connecting flights to Brussels and Washington, on his way to Dallas to see his family. On September 24 he began experiencing what every sentient being on the planet now knows to be Ebola symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, sweats and horrific stomach pains. He went to the emergency room at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 25 where he was diagnosed with a “low-grade, viral disease” and was sent home along with a prescription for some antibiotics that proved to be worthless.
As his symptoms got worse he was taken back to the ER at Texas Health on September 28 where he was put into intensive care. For a brief moment it appeared he would recover with the announcement that his condition was improving but on October 8 Thomas Eric Duncan died, becoming the first person in the United States to die from the Ebola virus.
Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist at the Nebraska Medical Center (where two US Ebola patients were treated successfully after they were infected in Liberia earlier this year) said on Monday:
This is a crucial milestone for the city of Dallas and for concerned persons across the United States.
I hope this reinforces the message: the public is safe and that Ebola is not very infectious in its early stages.
Anthony Fauci (pictured above, listening), head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, calmed Ebola fears further:
In the United States, two people have gotten infected with Ebola.
Both of them were taking care of a desperately ill patient in a risky situation.
You have to distinguish [between] the two nurses… [and] the risks to the general public who aren’t anywhere near an Ebola patient, much less a very sick Ebola patient.
This was echoed by Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School’s Center for Health Security, who said: “I for one am quite encouraged by the fact that 21 days have elapsed and Thomas Eric Duncan’s family have not become ill. It’s further evidence of what public health specialists have been saying: that this virus is not easily transmitted.”
Those remaining under quarantine are still holding their collective breaths until November 7. But as time passes, it appears that they will have less and less to worry about.
Both of the nurses who attended Duncan during his last days remain hospitalized. Nina Pham is reported to be in “fair” condition at an unnamed government hospital near Washington DC, while Amber Vinson is being treated at Emory University Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of those who is persuaded that the Ebola scare will amount to nothing is Bryan Caplan, a journalist at the Library of Economics and Liberty, who offered to make the following bet with anyone reading his blog:
$100 says that less than 300 people will die of Ebola within the 50 United States by January 1, 2018.
I will make this bet with up to five individuals with sufficient reputation to make payment likely if they lose.
I’m also happy to entertain alternative bets.
So far, none of his readers has taken him up on it.
If Caplan is right, by January 1, 2018, historians will look on the 2014 Ebola scare in the United States as nothing more frightening than a beer can to a skittish horse.
The New York Times: 3 Weeks of Isolation and Worry End for 43 People Declared Free of Ebola
The New York Times: Nigeria Is Free of Ebola, Health Agency Affirms
The New York Times: Ebola Is Ruled Out After Cruise Ship Carrying Hospital Worker Returns to Texas
NBC News: Ebola in America: Has the Fever Broken?