Reasonable Fear? aka Fear v. Freedom: Ebola edition

I’m as alarmed as anyone about the current Ebola crisis, both globally and quasi-locally.  I know there’s massive panic, both intuitively, and fed by the media, which feeds on hype.

I also do have the sense that, in the United States at least, freedoms can and have been sacrificed, unduly and unreasonably, under the mantle of fear.  Patriot Act, I need say no more.  I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said (or was it one of history’s out-of-context misunderstandings?), “Those who sacrifice liberty for safety, deserve none.”  Still I, as an American, have likely been born with this ingrained into the fiber of my being.

The essential question remains: To what extent is fear a valid guideline, as long as it leads to cautious, prudent, rational, and allowable outcomes, and to what extent is it overblown, hyped, panic, OCD, Big Brother, and so forth?  Where is that line?  How do we find it?

enter the current crisis du jour (not to belittle it; if so, apologies), Ebola.

I do, I really do, understand the fear.  At least I believe I do.  (I would direct people to the October 2014 issue of Vanity Fair, of all things, for an article on the origins of this current Ebola crisis; I happened by it, and did think it was a good article.  which surprised myself.)  anyways, the fear.  on the one hand, there’s the fear of foreigners storming in, in Hazmat suits, abducting your loved ones, ala E.T. or Outbreak, whom you’ll never see again.  The panic that you’ll die, and a hard death at that.  That death is inevitable.  therefore, what is the point of going to a hospital – if you are to die, wouldn’t you rather die at home?  and so on.

There’s also the fear, I presume, held by healthcare workers.  It is their job, if not their altruism, to deal with the bodily fluids of ill patients, to attend to all patients, no matter what, to risk their lives for this.

and the fear of outbreaks.  and so on and so on.

One of my questions, is that of rights for citizens, specifically rights for healthcare workers.  Outside of West Africa, we heard, via the media, that a healthcare worker who contracted Ebola in Spain, had her dog executed, against her will, and amid protests from many people.  Was this necessary?  On the one hand, “abundance of caution” and protecting the greater public, on the other hand, actual facts and the rights of citizens.  Was there any concrete scientific peer-reviewed proof that Ebola can be passed to dogs and then passed again to people?  and, even if so, why not quarantine the pet, as they quarantine people? and so on.

Thus, when it soon came to the same question in America, the media made a big deal out of stating that this Dallas nurse’s dog will be kept alive, though confiscated, and quarantined.  But still…. I heard a rumor on the internet – granted, the most incredible of incredible sources (as in not credible, by the by)….I heard a rumor that that nurse’s residence was being stormed and all her possessions, everything, will be destroyed.  If so, presumably out of an “abundance of caution.”

If so, and a big if, is that necessary?  also, how dare you.  evidence: Can this virus even survive on inanimate objects?  likely not.  Just seal off the apartment and wait the necessary period of time.  point two, decontaminate the place.  Point three, don’t citizens, even if stricken with something like Ebola, still retain the right to not have their private residences barged into, their pets taken, their possessions destroyed?  or do we forfeit, well everything, if you contract something like Ebola.

I don’t want to cause a stir.  I certainly want to do what is best for the public at large as well.

I am simply asking about that line, that line between what amount of sacrificing personal freedom must be done and what amount is undue, solely due to fear and so on.

And it’s not just the dogs, and even beyond the possessions.  These nurses are in the news, their names splattered everywhere, along with their health condition.  what about HIPPA?  what happened to confidentiality?  I saw a Yahoo article, just now, about the second Dallas nurse, who briefly traveled to Ohio.  “They” knew her whereabouts, they not only quarantined her plane and her family, but also a shop she went to, knew the hours she was in that shop, and so on.  Is this Big Brother?  Pinch me…am I really truly living in a world where, sorry, there is no such thing as privacy.  If something were to happen to you, whether you become the next serial killer, or just come out with a strange and scary illness, the truth comes out that the world knows your every movement, down to where you shopped and when you did?  Is there a way to fight this kind of surveillance?

I have no answers.  only questions.  Personally, I hate this kind of surveillance and total lack of privacy.  Still, I’m not in favor of pandemics either.  I just want people to ask the question of where’s that line between reasonable caution and right-sacrificing paranoia?  Maybe we can create tighter guidelines to navigate this line.

Lastly, it makes me ask, who would become a nurse now?  As well as all sympathies and respect for current nurses.  Don’t healthcare workers have rights?  Or are basic rights abdicated if you contract Ebola?

as is, caveat, this is just an ill-informed angry stupid rant, but such as it is.  (maybe that’s part of what the internet is for.)

Related Links:

I’m a Hazmat-Trained Healthcare Worker (

Updates 10/21/14:

“We garb up and glove up and mask up. But we do not give up.” (


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