Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN:
"If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they're contagious and you can catch it from them.”
That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:
"Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert. More recently, Kaci Hickox, a nurse who recently returned to her Maine home after treating patients in Sierra Leone, was subject to an involuntary quarantine in a tent at a New Jersey hospital, despite not showing symptoms of Ebola.
It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks.