Ebola, Fear and Uncertainty

Who needs terrorism when our news media serves us up a daily dish of uncertainty every day?

Ghanian bushmeat

Ebola is believed to originally migrated to humans through bushmeat
Photo by Wikiseal, used under CCA-SA

Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.

Sir William Osler, 1849 – 1919, Canadian physician and a founding father of John Hopkins Hospital

The news media keeps beating the Ebola drum, but just how warranted is the coverage in perspective?  We have problems in Syria, Iraq, concerns over Ukraine, and then there’s the North Korean lunatic fringe.

First of all, Ebola is a terrible disease.  That much must be acknowledged.  The symptoms are scary, and the recovery rate not so great.  Having said that, how many people die of infuenza every year in this country?

At times like these, it is usually helpful for our leaders to try to calm the fear. But unfortunately, President Barack Obama has so squandered the trust of the American people that the more he talks, the less people seem to believe him. Nonetheless, he was right when he said, “The dangers of your contracting Ebola, the dangers of a serious outbreak, are extraordinarily low.”

Our fears are irrational. Statistically, most of us have a far greater likelihood of dying of influenza this winter than Ebola. Last year, about 30,000 people died of the flu in the U.S., yet less than half of Americans get flu shots, which can prevent the disease. So far this year, 24 people have died from lightning strikes in the U.S. One has died from Ebola.

~ Linda Chavez, Courier-Post, “Fear of Ebola epidemic in U.S. is irrational

The fact that two nurses have contracted the disease while treating the original victim who later died hasn’t helped.  It should be a lesson in humility, for the institution of medicine has far too long played God and acted as though it is impervious to faults.  OTOH, panicking over lapses in training and/or procedures is a bit premature.

It is a complete irony that we live in an age where the vast store of human knowledge is pretty much available at our fingertips, and yet we live in an age of unprecedented anxiety.  More knowledge has not made us safer, saner or even less anxious.  If anything, it has stepped up the level of anxiety.

Great fear and reactions to terrorism were predicted by God in the Bible.  When He spoke to ancient Israel about their fate if they turned from Him and disobeyed Him, He said:

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies.

Lev 26:36-37 (NIV)

The tragedy is that they did not believe Him and put Him out of their public lives, but the worse tragedy is that this country supposedly built upon the ideals of a Judeo-Christian worldview still have not learned this lesson.

The answer is repentance, both on an individual and national level.  “In God We Trust” must be more than just lip service.

The alternative is to keep putting our faith in our fallible selves and reap the consequences of our own failings.

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