The news: Ebola is certainly a scary and dangerous disease, and the continuing outbreak in West Africa is deeply concerning. But the fact is that the chance of an Ebola epidemic in America remains incredibly low — not that cable news networks got the memo.
While it's inevitable 24-hour news outlets will seize on the idea of Ebola spreading throughout the U.S., the kind of mass media hysteria we've been witnessing in the past few day is out of hand.
For instance, CNN had the good tact to refer to Ebola as "the ISIS of biological agents," and, with a straight face, pitched the scenario that ISIS could "send a few of its suicide killers into an Ebola affected zone and then get them onto mass transit":
A medical expert had to explain to CNN's Ashleigh Banfield that no, that's not how Ebola spreads (it requires direct contact with infected body fluids). And over at Fox News, another expert had to similarly shut down host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's suggestion that we should just close down our borders:
"From a public health standpoint, that really doesn't make any sense. It's understandable how people could figure that that might help," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained.
"But when you completely seal off and don't let planes in and out of the West African countries involved, then you can paradoxically make things much worse, in the sense that you can't get supplies in, you can't get help in, you can't get the kinds of things in there that we need to contain the epidemic. And the best way to protect America is to suppress the epidemic in West Africa."
And to round out the trifecta, MSNBC's Meet the Press had this tense debate over whether public health officials were "misleading the American people" about the actual chance of an American Ebola epidemic:
This is fear-mongering at its worst. Yes, there have been isolated incidences of people traveling from West Africa and exporting Ebola, but the idea of an actual epidemic breaking out across the U.S. is far-fetched. And the American public isn't buying the media hysteria, either: According to the latest Pew Research Center poll, just 11% of Americans are worried about being exposed to Ebola:
But hysteria makes for a good headline, and it doesn't look like the cable networks will change their tune any time soon. As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show last week, "It's almost like they're crossing their fingers for an outbreak":
h/t: New York Magazine