Remember Ebola?

Arthur Caplan

Whatever became of Ebola? For weeks in October 2014, it was all the rage in America. Patients coming for treatment in Atlanta and Nebraska were monitored by a swarming media. A physician kept New York City on edge because prior to becoming ill, he had ridden on the subway, gone out to eat, and touched a few “rocks" in “throwing some lines" at a Manhattan bowling alley before winding up in isolation at Bellevue. A nurse just back from West Africa told off a couple of governors who tried to quarantine her, took the most photographed bike ride since a steroidal Lance Armstrong completed the Tour de France, and wound up getting a judge to permit her to roam her hometown of Fort Kent, Maine—presumably to the displeasure of the wildlife there, who vastly outnumber humans. Some politicians screamed for airports to be closed to anyone coming from Africa, until they realized that this would include Americans trying to return home. The Internet was awash with rumors that terrorists had or would smuggle Ebola across the Mexican border to use as a biological weapon. A few schools closed when it turned out that a pupil had an uncle or cousin who had either been to Liberia as a missionary, could spell Sierra Leone, or identify where Guinea was on a map.

Then came November, and Ebola completely vanished from the national consciousness. The Republicans clocked President Barack Obama at the polls and took over the Senate. That story dominated the headlines. Then Obama, who had been more or less somnolent for the previous year, awoke from his slumbers and responded to the political vote of no confidence by sticking his finger in the eye of the Republicans, announcing a unilateral immigration amnesty policy. That got a few days of intense coverage. A grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, issued no indictment of anyone in the death of Michael Brown; that got a few days of attention. And then came Thanksgiving. And when those events were done so, seemingly, was Ebola.

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