Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wise Old Man on Ebola

“What do you think of the Ebola crisis, Sir?” I asked the wise old man this morning. Interestingly, he said he had just been thinking, along with the Historic Washington State Park Interpreter, about the yellow fever scare of the 1870’s. He replied, “It does not seem to be a crisis as serious as the yellow fever outbreak of the 19th Century.”
“This thing is deadly, Sir.”
“I know,” said the wise old man. “It is a very dangerous disease, but people around here were just as nervous, if not more so, about yellow fever in the mid-to late 1870’s. They did not have all the media attention about the disease, but when a Washington, Arkansas resident arrived on the train in Hope with the disease, people in his town were justifiably terrified. Their confidence level in the doctors was not as high as ours is today.”
“Sir, surely you don’t think our confidence level is high concerning the CDC and the country’s medical professional’s ability to protect us from Ebola?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. But, in a way, I think we understand precautions against disease better than our forebears. When that man that arrived ill in Hope died, citizens were careful to purify everything he touched, even though they knew very little of how such a disease was transmitted. The local Board of Health met regularly, blaming the railways and the river boats for not screening their passengers. So, there is nothing new there.”
“If I may say so, Sir, you sound like that commentator on Fox, what’s his name, Shepard Smith, who claims the Ebola crisis is trumped up.”
“No, I don’t think it is trumped up, but there is a lot of suspicion that the government is ineffective on any number of issues and people do not feel very protected these days, do they? Competence is in doubt perhaps. For example, I had occasion to be in an emergency room in another state one day last week and, while people were there wanting help, some seemed skeptical of the process or even the possibility of receiving it.”
“Don’t you go to the VA for your health care needs?”
“Yes,” the wise old man replied. “I was at the emergency with another person. I have been very satisfied with my care at the VA, even though they have really received some bad press recently. That’s what I mean. For whatever reason, there is a lot of suspicion that government cannot sufficiently care for people medically. But I have found the VA quite effective, courteous, kind, respectful and diligent.”
“Back to this Ebola thing, Sir, are you of the opinion that it is not a serious issue?”
“No, it is serious, no doubt about that. But, I don’t think it should be characterized as an outbreak, do you? People should be more concerned about the flu and get the shot protecting them from that right away. And, if you suspect someone has Ebola, stay away from any of their fluids.”
“I sure hope you are right, Sir,” I said. “We will see how this thing plays out. My own fear is that it will become widespread here in our country. We should learn now how to take the right precautions.”

“Yellow fever it is not,” the wise old man said as he walked away.

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