Aimee Patton

A pleasantly eccentric take on politics

Attention Kansas City!
It looks like there is a new illness spreading across Kansas City this week that has many concerned.  The symptoms are as follows:

  • Anxiety induced sweating
  • A strong need to start wiping your loved ones down with Clorox wipes
  • Stomach distress caused from worry
  • An inability to tell the difference between facts and rumors
  • A strange conversational pattern where every third word muttered is “Ebola”

If you have these symptoms, you may be suffering from Ebola overreactionitis.


Since everyone seems to be freaking out over Ebola, lets start with step one to combat this condition.  Put the hand sanitizer down and slowly back away from it. Now lets just all take one big cleansing breath and repeat after me, “I don’t have Ebola. I’m going to stop obsessing about getting Ebola. Just because I have a stomach ache doesn’t mean I have Ebola.”
All this panic comes after a story broke this past weekend claiming a seriously ill man was taken to a local Kansas City hospital.  The man had recently traveled from Nigeria.  The social media panic was like watching an infectious disease ping-pong match – He was quarantined. He wasn’t quarantined.  He did have Ebola.  He didn’t have Ebola.  Ultimately it came out that he didn’t have Ebola.

“To be clear, “HCA Midwest assistant vice president Chris Hamele said that the patient does not have the symptom profile of virus and is being treated appropriately for his condition.”
Read more:

So everybody CHILL OUT….
I took an informal poll on my Facebook page today asking if people were really worried about getting Ebola.  It turns out that some are worried that it will spread across the United States, but few are worried that they will actually contract it.
Let’s be clear, unless you have been hanging out in a West African village lately the likelihood of you contracting Ebola at your local Starbucks is basically zero.
People will travel to and from West Africa.  People will come back and have diarrhea and throw up.  Here’s how it works.  The plane touches down in West Africa and you get explosive diarrhea.  I’m not sure why, it’s just the way it is. How do I know? I traveled to Burkina Faso and to Ghana and it happened to me both times.  It was worse in Burkina Faso, but I spent weeks traveling around rural Burkina Faso.  I got very, very ill.  Here’s a picture of me the day that the illness started. As you can tell, I was bloated like a balloon and the illness hit me that night.  I can’t believe I’m sharing this with you, but what the hell, it’s all to prove my point.  I heard a quote a while ago that sums up traveling from West Africa perfectly – “you know you have left rural Africa when you can finally fart with confidence.”
Here’s the deal – West Africa has a whole host of viruses, parasites and diseases that cause vomiting and diarrhea and until recently all of them weren’t Ebola.  Even with Ebola, the percentage of people with Ebola in relation to the entire population is incredibly low.   We need to be mindful of this before starting rumors of a possible Ebola outbreaks in US cities photothat can lead to unnecessary panic.
Along with this, I think when we do find cases of Ebola, like the one in Texas, we need to take it very seriously.  I do think the people the man in Texas came in contact with need to be quarantined.  I do think we need to continue to do everything we can to help stop the epidemic in Africa by sending money, supplies and medical personnel. My message isn’t that we shouldn’t do anything.  We should be doing everything possible to save lives and stop this terrible outbreak.
There are two aspects of the outbreak in the United States that I find most interesting.  One is in regards to vaccines and the other is funding for public health.
I tweeted out yesterday that in an effort to prevent epidemics, we should all take a pledge to get a flu shot.  Flu kills an estimated 36,000 people in the United States every year.  We have available vaccines for the flu.  It just makes sense for everyone to get vaccinated.  Yet every year there are thousands of people who don’t get vaccinated against the flu. I received some tweet responses of thanks, but no thanks.  I used to feel that way, but now with this Ebola outbreak, I’m never going to miss a flu shot.
In an article I read about the overreaction to Ebola, this powerful point was made,

“I bet that if we put out an Ebola virus vaccine tomorrow, half of this country would take it, even though it hasn’t killed anyone who hasn’t traveled” to the affected countries. “Yet you can’t get parents to give their children an HPV vaccine to prevent a virus that kills 4,000 U.S. citizens a year.”

So true.
What else stands out to me regarding this outbreak?  The need to adequately fund public health.  In a time of crisis, it seems that people believe money is no object.  People are yelling to quarantine everyone who has traveled from West Africa.  Quarantines cost money.  Combating illness also costs a lot of money.  If we are going to expect a first class response to an epidemic, we need to adequately fund the organizations responsible for responding.

“The CDC saw its discretionary funding cut by $585 million from 2010 to 2014, while the NIH’s budget was slashed by $446 million over the last four years.”

That’s a lot of money in budget cuts.  How do we expect these agencies to adequately respond when we are slashing their budgets?  We can’t have it both ways.  We need to put pressure on our politicians to increase funding to public health agencies so they can provide the necessary supplies to respond to these outbreaks, develop a vaccine and save lives.
What do you think? Are you worried or do you think KC is suffering from Ebola overreactionitis?

This made me laugh:


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