Americans are a primitive and superstitious people, so I suppose the near-hysteria (in some circles at least) set off by the Oct. 8 death in Dallas of an Ebola victim shouldn't surprise. The victim was a Liberian, Thomas E. Duncan, who arrived in Texas on Sept. 20, became ill a few days later but was misdiagnosed at and then sent home by a Dallas hospital, returned critically ill a few days later, was admitted --- and died.
In the days since, two nurses who cared for Duncan have fallen ill --- apparently because the hospital failed to provide them with adequate protective gear for a day or two after Duncan finally was diagnosed.
But there have been no other Ebola cases in the United States --- not among those in contact with Duncan on the flights from Monrovia to Dallas, nor among those who interacted with him after his arrival. And the 21-day incubation "waiting" period has passed for many.
The folks at the Centers for Disease Control and others who specialize in communicable diseases really do know what they're talking about. The Ebola virus (there are four strains deadly to humans) spreads principally through contact with the bodily fluids of people in active stages of infection or items those fluids have contaminated. The major danger is to health-care workers. The virus does not become airborne, as do those transmitting the flu, colds and other woes that afflict us.
So there's no danger of an epidemic in the United States, nor for that matter in much of the developed world where adequate healthcare is available.
But we've been hearing the most outlandish things in recent days. Republican politicians, sensing an issue, blame President Obama. TV and online preachers blame the gays --- god's judgment you know, for same-sex marriage. There are calls for travel bans to and from West Africa. Calls for an Ebola "czar." On and on.
But contrary to the lead sentence in an MSNBC story this morning, "Ebola spreads in the United States," Ebola is not spreading in the United States --- although misinformation and brain-dead hysteria certainly is.
The epidemic is in West Africa --- specifically Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; and, in Africa, there is real danger that it will spread farther across a continent where resources, healthcare and otherwise, are limited. So beyond reasonable homefront precautions, that's where the energy, angst and resources should be directed.
Not because isolating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will make America safer, but because the Africans suffering and dying there are our sisters and brothers and children.