Another Irrational Ebola Response

November 4, 2014
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The definition of irrational behavior is “without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason”[1] and it is presently Ebola fearsrampant in my workplace. Every patient seen, not just individuals with fever or nausea and vomiting, is screened for exposure to Ebola.

The definition of irrational behavior is “without the faculty of reason; deprived of reason”[1] and it is presently Ebola fearsrampant in my workplace. Every patient seen, not just individuals with fever or nausea and vomiting, is screened for exposure to Ebola. Every patient that walks through the door gets a(nother) form with three checkboxes asking if the patient lived in or visited a west African country within the last 21 days or was exposed to an individual who has the disease or is at risk of having the disease. I guess in a world where hype and panic prevail this is considered a reasonable question. Along the lines of this thinking, it would make a lot more sense to ask:

  • Did they drive to the office? —chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident 1/491
  • Do they have a gun at home? —chance of suicide using a gun 1/203
  • Are they flying anywhere in the next week?— chance of dying in an airplane 1/8335
  • Did they run to their car or home in a thunderstorm recently?—chance of dying in a storm 1/83709

Chance of dying of Ebola: 1/3,934,300[2]

I await the unlikely event when one of my patients returns from an Ebola-affected country in the previous 21 days and comes to me for his hypertensive check. As I enter our newly created isolation room and do the visit in full protective gear, recognizing that touching an asymptomatic patient is of absolutely no risk to me, what in the hell am I going to say to this gentleman? “Have a nice day and please slink out the back door on your way out”?

System administrators and politicians feed into the hysteria of the masses and frighten patients who are already freaked out by any number of irrational fears. As a consequence, heroes return from working in West Africa and are greeted with the loss of civil rights based on fear instead of science. I take umbrage at being forced to add to public paranoia by legitimizing a workflow designed for a real threat instead of this farce.

1. Dictionary.com

2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/how-deadly-is-ebola/