THE EBOLA SCARE: When Common Sense is Nonsense

I wrote about the Ebola “crisis” only about two weeks ago, but now it seems like ancient history.   Here’s a history question:  Regarding Ebola, do you know the significance of Nov 7?   That was the final day for those who had had any contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola in Dallas,  to show signs of Ebola.   I assume no one did.   Otherwise we’d hear all about it.  That’s really good news, but now Ebola stateside is a distant memory and news that isn’t bad isn’t really news, with the rare exception of great news, like astronauts landing on the moon or VE Day, the end of the European front of WW II.

In retrospect, some of the Ebola scare was good, in that it pressed hospitals around the nation to actually think through the question:  What do we do if an Ebola patient walks in through our doors?  In a previous post, I referred to the “Dallas debacle”, but most hospitals would have reacted in the same chaotic way.   If anyone had come in off the street with Ebola to a hospital before I haven’t heard of it.   Ebola cases get shipped here to one of our specialist facilities. They just don’t appear out of nowhere. At least hadn’t.

Surely, that question must have been raised by medical staff in hospitals here and there throughout the country, but in typical bureaucratic fashion, that got lost in the shuffle. The changes needed would have cost money and staff time, perhaps a lot, and the likelihood of it happening must have seemed small, so …

With that one case in Dallas the likelihood suddenly seemed huge. With many Americans thinking it was only “common sense” to make everyone who traveled from those afflicted west African countries remain in 21 day quarantine.   Well, common sense to a point maybe, but when it came to doing that with health workers who had volunteered to go to Africa, it was just plain wrong headed.   As President Obama said, those medical volunteers should be treated as heroes.  Instead they tended to be treated like criminals.

Centuries ago common sense  supported the notion that the sun revolved around the earth because when we looked at the sky we could see the sun moving.   That’s not a fair analogy, but while common sense has valuel, the evolution of science has come in contrast to so-called common sense. i. e. common sense is often misleading, such as in the case of eye witnesses of crimes who used to be thought of as providing great evidence until studies showed different eyes can see events differently.   Thank God for the discovery of DNA.

The problem with the “common sense” angle prized by politicians like the governors of New Jersey and New York, is that an abundance of caution would likely dissuade medical volunteers to go to West Africa where the real problem, the biggest danger to us all in the future, needs to be eradicated.   It is “penny wise and pound foolish,” to apply an old expression.

Common sense was actually head-in-the-sand thinking, but popular with the people, so certain politicians had to slop it up like pigs at a trough.   According to polls 70% of Americans thought it a good idea.   I wonder how many of those polled were libertarian leaning with a strong belief in reducing governmental meddling.

…..except when each of them gets scared enough to demand more meddling.  That’s only common sense.

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