Ebola: How much are you talking about it?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Ebola
2014 chart of ebola epidemic in West Africa

Wikimedia Commons editors Mikael Häggström and Brian Groen have been updating this map since early September, showing the rising number of cases and deaths. As of mid October, European health officials monitoring the virus’s spread announced that Nigeria seems to have been effective in containing the disease.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the formation of “a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.”

Does this response make you feel more secure—or more worried?

Ebola has riveted Americans’ attention, eclipsing other issues that had dominated the news cycle. Over a third of the American population (36%) said they were closely following the story of the current Ebola outbreak, according to the Pew Research Center—and this poll was taken in early October before additional cases were spotted in recent days.

U.S. airstrikes against ISIS fell to the number two spot on the list of what Americans are very closely watching, followed by the travails of the Secret Service, and midterm elections next month, and protests in Hong Kong.

Ebola was the top focus in all age groups, Pew reports, except the oldest cohort (65+) where it tied with ISIS. Even 30% of the youngest age group (18-29) were closely following the Ebola story.

Ebola comes up in just about any conversation I’ve had in the last several days. For example, this past weekend I gave a talk about American values to a University of Michigan alumni group. The topic came up in response to a question about American values in the future. One clear connection is the core value of security—protection from external and internal threats to the nation. These are often thought of as terrorist threats, but global epidemics are also included.

Our responses to the Ebola threat are a crucible of the core values of security and of freedom. These values are often in tension. More of one means less of the other. Many of the tactics proposed to secure the nation from the threat of Ebola involve the reduction or suppression of the value of freedom.

Is Ebola a topic of daily conversation for you?

How do we manage such a panic as a population?

What values do we bring to bear in weighing information about Ebola and how we think about it?

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  1. I’ve been following the Ebola story because it has been so prevalent, it has been hard to ignore. And I would like to ignore it. I had a co-worker on Friday share his reluctance to board a flight this weekend. I’ve had similar conversations with family. People are talking about Ebola, fear about the disease and disappointment in the handling of the response.

    Yes, Ebola should be a concern, but the threat has been blown way out of proportion by the media which loves to make everything scarier and more threatening than reality. Fear, outrage, and the ability to embroil current political tensions and allow for politician grandstanding.

    There is a story in the response to the potential threat Ebola posts because it is a test of ten years of investing in preparing for such of threat. Much of that investment and the office responsible for our nation’s preparation has been largely silent: http://thefederalist.com/2014/10/14/president-obama-already-has-an-ebola-czar-where-is-she/

    The response by the CDC, NIH, and Dept. of Health and Human services has not been reassuring and should be looked in to further. However, more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from the disease . Ebola is going to infect and kill far fewer Americans than the flu and numerous other preventable diseases.