During World War II, the British government prepared a motivational poster designed to help the beleaguered population "keep its stiff upper lip." The slogan it championed was--KEEP CALM and CARRY ON. Millions of posters were printed, but they were never distributed. The posters were rediscovered in the year 2000--and a whole new icon was born.
I humbly suggest we get some of those posters and distributed them NOW--to members of Congress, to newscasters, to local politicians, to everyone who is now freaking out about Ebola.
I am not suggesting that we take this emerging epidemic lightly. But we really need to get a grip. There were Congressional hearings held today, and legislators took their turns when it was their time to query--and took whacks at the head of the CDC as if he were a piñata hanging from the ceiling and they each had a brand new stick to flail away at him.
I couldn't help but recall the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic. And how little concern there was among politicians then. Medical personnel knew they had a mystery disease on their hands. Perhaps the fact the earliest people suffering, and then dying from this disease, were gay was part of the reason for the studied ignoring of the emerging epidemic.
When AIDS first emerged as a true epidemic, I was working for the state medical society. Part of my job was to work with scientific areas--so I helped staff committees of physicians who were trying to address the disease that was eventually called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome--AIDS. One day, I got a call from a public health doctor working at the state Health Department. The Health Department had prepared an informative brochure with tips on how to prevent the spread of AIDS. One of the precautions listed was to "wash." When the pamphlet was sent to the governor's office for vetting, the question came back--wash what? When they were told, they insisted that precaution be removed! The level of ignorance--or lack of caring--was such that the governor's office then did not want to acknowledge that part of the means whereby AIDS was spread was unprotected sex. And that knowledge, not ignorance, was one way to help reduce transmission.
Fast forward 30 some years--and now we have legislative hysteria ruling the day. Frankly, ignoring an emerging epidemic is NOT the way to control the disease. But then, hysterical misguided politically-driven suggestions are ALSO NOT the way to control the disease.
In today's hearing, one of the suggestions was--REFUSE TO ALLOW ANYONE TO ENTER THE U.S. who is traveling from a west African location. Really? Well, people can travel from countries in west Africa to many other countries and then enter to U.S. Only, now, public health professionals wouldn't KNOW the person had been in west Africa. One of the biggest enemies of controlling an epidemic is ignorance. Another enemy is fear.
We have both in abundance right now. To hear the newscasters tell it, it's just a matter of time until everyone touches something that someone who heard about someone who had Ebola touched, and so because of that, we will all die.
Well, true--we will. But not from Ebola. There will be some other reason. Many things are so much more threatening--smoking. Handguns. Drunk drivers. Texting drivers. Lack of immunization. Polluted drinking water. And on and on it goes.
It seems like a good time to break out the posters--KEEP CALM and CARRY ON.