In the early coverage of Thomas Eric Duncan’s diagnosis, it was the discussion of Ebola’s “non-specific,” early symptoms—similar to those of the common cold—that struck a chord. Hours after these reports, one of which I published, the mania was in full swing. CDC reminders that one would have to come in contact with the bodily fluids of an Ebola victim themselves before getting infected fell on deaf ears. At hospitals across the nation, panicked Americans with flu symptoms began convincing themselves they were next.
There were cases in Honolulu, Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Each accompanied by ominous press conferences and media briefings, each “no threat” conclusion quickly followed by a new case, a new city. Public health resources aren't unlimited. Every time someone comes in with bogus "Ebola-like" symptoms, that pushes back treatment for real disease and injury.
In the hours after Duncan’s death, the false alarms have simply grown louder. When a sheriff in Frisco, Texas involved in the Duncan case told his son he felt nauseous Wednesday afternoon, the local hospital’s decision to admit him under an “abundance of caution” exploded into a national news event. CNN juxtaposed a shot of a racing ambulances and caution tape alongside the livestream of a Frisco official, who Twitter had convinced itself was about to break news about the second victim. Instead, he declared the patient to be a “minimal risk.”
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