A minor disease should be treated as business-as-usual
Ebola has been everywhere in the media for several months. If you look at Google Trends, you will see that the amount of media coverage dedicated to Ebola surpassed that of tuberculosis and even AIDS by an order of magnitude.
If you trusted the media as an honest reflection of the danger, you could conclude that the number of deaths from Ebola has been approximately 10 times larger than that from AIDS or tuberculosis. Is this estimate a good one?
Of course, it's not. The annual number of deaths due to AIDS is about 1.5 million, the toll due to tuberculosis is also 1.5 million, if we double-count 0.5 million where AIDS and tuberculosis "cooperated". The ratio 1.5 million over 5,000 (2014 Ebola deaths so far) is 300. Instead of 10 times larger, Ebola's killing power is 300 times smaller. In some sense, one could say that Ebola is overhyped in the media by the factor of 3,000.
All these diseases and many others are different, differently fast, differently urgent, caused by different microorganisms and spreading through slightly different channels. But all of them are capable of achieving the exponential growth of the number of the infected people and all of them have a high mortality rate.
When it comes to their effects on the society, they are comparable which is why the direct comparisons of their casualties is a relatively fair criterion to estimate their relative importance. Ebola simply is much less consequential at this moment than tuberculosis, AIDS, and several other infectious diseases. It's also no threat to the survival of the mankind. Some people have been cured of Ebola, and so on. In this sense, Ebola seems to have a higher chance to be fully defeated than AIDS.
So where does this excess exposure to Ebola in the media come from? Sorry to say but it's mostly a fad that is supported mostly by the ignorance and stupidity of the writers who aren't capable of seeing the data in the proper context and to present the stories in the right proportion. They are wrong by three orders of magnitude because they are idiots. They don't fully realize that infectious diseases have existed since the moment when life was born on Earth – for billions of years – and even well-monitored Ebola outbreaks have been around since 1976. And yes, they have faded away in the past, much like they will probably fade away soon.
Needless to say, the Ebola panic isn't the first case of an infectious disease that is overhyped by the (post)modern media. Five years ago, the media would be full of swine flu. Five years earlier, it would be bird flu. Nowadays, you don't hear about these things at all. It seems clear to me that the swine flu hysteria was a cure that was worse than the original disease. I bet that most of us don't even know whether these diseases still exist and spread somewhere. But the media haven't learned any lesson so every increase of another disease is a good enough reason to exaggerate the threat. It's a good opportunity for some politicians to strengthen their image of Messiahs in the eyes of their most gullible voters.
Much of this "political power" of Ebola is due to the "special" catchy name. If the name were "some contrived adjective flu", people wouldn't write about it as much.
I am not saying that people shouldn't fight against Ebola. I am not even saying that the demonstrably infected and perhaps potentially infected people shouldn't be segregated in quarantine. They probably should be. Flights to the bad regions should be restricted and given special care. And there are people in each country that are supposed to deal with similar things. Epidemiologists, you know. There are many technical questions about the necessity and helpfulness of various policies etc. Good enough experts are probably needed to compare costs and benefits of such policies.
But what I consider stupid is the media image of Ebola as one of the most serious threats facing the mankind in 2014. It's just a media fantasy. In a speech one month ago, an empty suit listed Ebola and Russia among 3 world's biggest threats, along with the Islamic State. The Russian prime minister pointed out that the inclusion of Russia had to be due to a brain aberration of this empty suit and he was surely right. However, my point right now is that the inclusion of Ebola was a brain aberration, too. Ebola probably doesn't make it among top 5 most threatening infectious diseases as of now and infectious diseases are just a relatively small (but not negligible) fraction of the threats that the humanity faces.
Incidentally, it is pretty ironic that the empty suit who claims to dislike Ebola and Russia has appointed an Ebola czar. This table shows that Obama has invented 38 czar titles – more than ever before (although his predecessor was already a much "stronger" czarmarker [not to be confused with a carmaker] than all the previous presidents) and more than the total number of czars in the whole history of the Russian Empire. You could think that if Obama thinks that czars are such an excellent idea, he should be more respectful to Russia and avoid ludicrous claims such as "Russia doesn't make anything". Among other things, Russia has invented czars that are at the heart of Obama's leadership.
Let me stop with these silly jokes.
My point is that every highly lethal disease is dangerous but there are many of them, there are people (and even before the Ebola czar, there were people) who should fight against these threats, and extracting Ebola from the context and blowing it out of proportion may only help to spread the lack of realism and the excess of stupidity. And stupidity is unfortunately spreading much more quickly than Ebola. Many presidents don't include stupidity among the top threats for the mankind because they have already been conquered by the stupidity virus and it prevents them from seeing and saying the obvious.
And that's the memo.
A minor disease should be treated as business-as-usual