Opinion | A New Plague on the Rise: Hysteria

| October 6, 2014

ebolahysteria-croppedNick Rudnik, Valdosta Today Opinion Contributor:

“Stop the EBOLA patients from entering the U.S.,” tweeted business mogul Donald Trump upon revelations that two U.S. aid workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, were returning to the United States from Liberia in August to receive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, after contracting Ebola hemorrhagic fever in West Africa. Both Brantly and Writebol were successfully treated at Emory and have been subsequently released from the hospital—free of the virus.

In response to Brantly and Writebol returning to the U.S., fringe Texas-based conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, wrote on his website Infowars.com that “[the federal government] would exercise draconian emergency powers if Ebola hits U.S..” Brantly and Writebol, you may recall, travel was made in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta,

And with Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan recently traveling to Dallas from the West African nation and becoming the first individual to transmit Ebola in the United States, the cries of hysteria have only been magnified.

Let me be clear on something by echoing the recent title of a Washington Post article on the topic: if you live in the U.S. you are not going to catch Ebola. While that may be a sweeping generalization, the point is, the likelihood of this disease becoming a major health crisis in the United States—the pinnacle of modern medicine, disease control, and the Global North, generally—is slim to none.

But the secondary crisis, the hysteria in response to the first U.S. case of Ebola, which is growing in many corners of our nation’s civil discourse and on the net, is particularly troubling. When folks like Trump or Jones seek to induce fear or panic, and propagate a misinformation campaign, there are real public health consequences.

Take, for example, the anti-vaccine movement led by celebrity activist, Jenny McCarthy. Importantly, the claims broadcasted by McCarthy and those like her in the anti-vaccine culture have been unilaterally discredited by those in the medical and public health professions. No, vaccines do not cause autism, mental retardation, or the like. The evidence McCarthy rests her claims on were first published in a volume by former British physician, Andrew Wakefield. I say former, because Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in the UK in May 2010 for doctoring data and manipulating findings in his research.

I delve into the anti-vaccine movement and its cult of false equivalency and balance to make this point: when celebrity talking heads or popular figures like McCarthy with autism or Trump with Ebola make hysterical and ungrounded claims, there are real public health consequences. The Washington Post noted in May that “the [CDC] recently reported 13 measles outbreaks so far in 2014—the most since 1996.” Other scholars have seen a dramatic rise in nearly-eradicated diseases—such as measles, mumps, rubella, and the like—among the highly-developed countries. This is largely attributed to the baseless counterfactuals of the fringe anti-vaccine movement gaining-say in our national discourse.

As with vaccines, we should resist the convenient temptations of fear-mongering among those in popular culture with the Ebola outbreak. Ebola is hard to transmit. It is “only transmitted via [contact with] bodily fluids” said Mike Swain, a Master of Public Health candidate at the George Washington University in Washington, DC and a former employee of the Saginaw County Department of Public Health in Saginaw, MI.

CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, recently, and rightly, opined that the most effective way to defeat Ebola is at its source—in West Africa. “Relative to West Africa, the U.S. has strong, government sponsored, public health systems. Additionally, the U.S. has a well-educated and trained workforce, in both medicine and public health,” Swain added, noting that “the treatment for this disease is palliative, a common treatment American medical institutions routinely handle. Ebola has been in existence for decades—and has predominantly infected remote areas lacking basic health infrastructure.”

So what’s the crux of all of this? If we want to be confident Ebola will not become an issue in the U.S., Canada, or Western Europe, we must heed Dr. Frieden’s proclamation and stamp out Ebola at its source. The U.S. must act in concert with other western states and allocate substantial military and healthcare resources to containing this terrible disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Finally, we must reject panic for reason. The only plague which will overtake the U.S. healthcare system is hysteria. And as with vaccines, there can and will be potential public health and social consequences by buying into the discordant and hysterical tumult surrounding the dirty “four letter word” of Ebola.

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11 Comments on "Opinion | A New Plague on the Rise: Hysteria"

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  1. Anthony says:

    The top researches that began studying Ebola are concerned as the L.A. Times reported just yesterday. Just because we are the “pinnacle,” of health care, which is debatable itself, doesn’t mean a disease can’t get out of control, and spread like a wild fire. The arrogance and pride of such a statement reminds me of those that thought the Titanic couldn’t be sunk. Furthermore, the incompetence of the CDC is unparalleled. The CDC released his daughter back to work after being exposed to a virus that has an incubation period of 21 days, and serological testing does not adequately detect.
    Secondly, most vaccines come from aborted fetal cell lines. You may not be pro-life yourself, but I’m Catholic, and we are. This is one of many reasons people that are aware do not vaccinate their children. In populations which were secluded there were not any incidents of autism. When vaccines containing the cells of murdered babies were introduced, guess what showed up. Autism.
    My sources are sited below. God bless, I’m praying for your soul.


    • LOL says:

      Vaccines don’t cause autism dude…and abortion is not really a big deal any more. Get over it the world’s changing faster than people like you want to change. The CDC also is not incompetent. Go get a PHD or MD and study infectiuas disease and then tell me that YOU could do a better job. ALSO the bible teaches love and compassion have some peace of mind for the people who spend there careers working to keep others healthy and safe…..smh

      • Anthony says:


        Please read the research on the links between autism and vaccines listed on my links below. I used to teach physics, although I had to give that up, as I am currently ill. While I am not a medical doctor, I do know a little about infectious disease because of my background in science. You insinuate that it is wrong for me to be critical of a government organization that is taking minimal precautions with an infectious disease that has possibly mutated, and could become airborne. Your further insist that I read up on the Bible, as it teaches love and compassion, yet in the same breathe insist that murdering a baby in the womb is, “…not really a big deal anymore.” You are absolutely correct that the Bible teaches love and compassion, but it also teachers fraternal correction. I have every right under the Constitution, and the law of the Catholic Church to be critical of any organization that endangers life. My cousin was in the CareNow, in Frisco, the very night before the Sheriff that may have contracted ebola from the apartments. So yes, I will continue to be critical of the current Presidential administration, and the CDC for not shutting down flights and screening borders. When my family moved here from Italy in the early twentieth century, they were held at Ellis Island in quarantine for a month. This was before the rise of modern infectious disease science, but all it takes is a little common sense. God Bless sir. If you would like to have further private discussions I would be happy to share the Catholic Faith with you, and the truth behind it from an unbroken lineage back to Jesus Christ.

        • LOL says:

          A religious scholars opinion—–http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-lowery-phd/abortion-what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-say_b_1856049.html

          (This is where I take a seat. I think you should too.)

        • Hillarious says:

          And how about you start focusing on the big Christian issues like poverty and war and famine instead of the Wedge issues like abortion. And I guess you can sit on your High Horse and claim that if youre vaccinated youre a bad person but the catholic church still says its cool because it does far far more good (like 99%) than bad. We cant change that 2 fetuses were terminated for science but we can use there vaccines which have saved millions, or hundreds of millions…get real bud. I betcha youre vaccinated…………..

          • Anthony says:


            I can assure you I don’t have a high horse. I am a sinner. I used to have a high horse, but Jesus drop kicked me off of it; similar to St. Paul. How much worse I am than him though. I am ash and sin. I am simply called by the Faith to give an accounting of it when asked to. I would never think, or say, that someone is bad, or evil because they have received vaccines. I am not sure where you are getting the number ninety-nine percent of the time, but you can look at the previous comments I left to others regarding the Faith and vaccines with aborted fetal cells. I know you are not Catholic, and it is often misunderstood because it does take some time to study the basics. I was raised Catholic, left the Church in pursuit of a worldly life, and then returned. When I returned, I realized I didn’t know very much of the Faith myself.
            The link you posted is from a protestant Ph.D. He is incorrect in his assessment of the language, and those particular passages of the Scriptures speaking of the law. I will post the link with the correct interpretation. This will include a verse of the Old Testament from King David, which leaves no room for misinterpretation. Catholics, unlike Protestants, do not believe in the Bible alone, but also the Tradition handed down to us. The first Traditional source outside of the Bible that addresses abortion was written seventy years after Christ’s Crucifixion. The source will also list a series of early Church Fathers that taught the same on abortion from the very beginning. The overall philosophy of Christianity and abortion don’t square even without those sources, but that would be a very long conversation on right reason. We could talk about that some time if you like.
            Finally, I am really thrilled that you brought up the topic of war and poverty! The Catholic Church leads the United States in giving to the impoverished. I’m sure Catholic relief services gives more than the U.N. to the whole world, although I would have to look that up to be sure. Also, we only agree to just wars based on specific criteria. In fact, St. Pope John Paul II told George Bush he COULDN’T attack Iraq because it didn’t meet the criteria for a just war. Fortunately for George, and unfortunately for the people of Iraq, George is protestant and owes the Popes opinion, and the dogma of the Church nothing. If you would like to know how much money I have personally given to poverty, and the antiwar organizations I have belonged to, you can post your email. I really would like to continue the conversation with you anyway. I really do love you, and I want to give you what I have found. I really will pray for you. Jesus Christ is real, and you really can receive Him here and now, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.


          • Anthony says:

            Also…. Yes I have been vaccinated. That was before the Church was aware it was going on. I am 34 years old, and I would think the majority of my generation is vaccinated. I have not vaccinated my two sons because of what happened to my brother directly after being vaccinated, and because of the aborted fetal cell material.

  2. SJM says:

    You’re doubt that the U.S. is the pinnacle of health care does not erase the fact the American health system exists and the West African infrastructure does not. While I do not personally know of anyone who thought the Titanic would not sink, there are real reasons the U.S. is not West Africa. We shall see how the epi curve for Ebola turns out, but let’s settle the abortion/vaccine/religion argument here and now, as it is truly dangerous rhetoric.

    Most vaccines do not come from fetal cell lines. I am a devout Catholic. Abortion is a strong public health question, but let’s save that for another day. People who are educated on diseases and vaccines DO vaccinate their children and themselves, people who are unaware do not. Just like former Dr. Wakefield, you’re conclusion is just not logical or correct. Let me refer you to the stance of our Catholic church:

    “One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them… Descendant cells are the medium in which these vaccines are prepared. The cell lines under consideration were begun using cells taken from one or more fetuses aborted almost 40 years ago. Since that time the cell lines have grown independently. It is important to note that descendant cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim’s body.”

    While I did not “site” my sources, I have cited them for your enjoyment.


  3. Anthony says:


    I am truly glad to find out you are a devout Catholic. I guess I’m a little baffled by your response to abortion in general as a Catholic. You refer to it as, “…a strong public health question.” I’m curious what your position is on abortion. Feel free to email me on that if you would like.

    Thank you for the sources you sited. They are helpful to further our discussion. The Catholic News article you cited is from 2005, and is slightly outdated information.

    “In December 2007, the NJ Catholic Conference of Bishops reversed their previous policy of denying religious exemptions at all Catholic schools in the State. Out of 195 dioceses in the country, only 19 remain with such unlawful, stringent – and unwarranted policies.”

    However, you are absolutely correct in saying that Catholic parents can vaccinate should they choose to do so. We did not vaccinate because someone in our family is on the spectrum, and we disagree with using aborted fetus cell lines from the vaccines. You are also correct about the age of the cell lines used, but that does not change their point of origin.

    The article you posted continues, “…doctors and parents who use the vaccines for health reasons are carrying out “a form of very remote … material cooperation,” reflecting a “very mild” immoral act…” Personally, as a Catholic, I prefer to avoid deliberate venial sin as well. Since I know the origins of these vaccines, I just want to avoid it. I’m a sinner, but not if I can avoid it. =)

    The second source you sited (got it right that time =) ) I believe is secular, although I could be wrong. I don’t necessarily trust secular sources of information. I’m glad you are Catholic because I would love to send you the DVD documenting this history of various vaccines and their origins! I have been looking for someone to send it to.

    The following information comes directly from the links I will provide. Notice how Catholics are expected to get alternative vaccines when possible, which are not derived from aborted lines. I’m am so grateful that we are hitting that point! Dr. Deisher, a wonderful Catholic, as are those that run Children of God for Life, has been developing clean vaccines. She is also the wonderful lady that has been doing cutting edge research to prove the link between vaccines and various diseases. I will provide a link to ALL of the vaccines which contain aborted fetal material, and fortunately it is always being updated. The third link listed has ALL of the vaccines using aborted lines. Thank you for the dialogue. I hope you write me at my email address. I would love to send you that CD, and pray the rosary with you! Pax Christi!

    Whereas the supreme teaching authority of the Catholic Church, as illumined by Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the Magisterium of the Church and the Apostolic Authority of our Holy Father, the Pope, and,

    Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law binds parents to be primarily responsible for the physical, moral and spiritual formation of their children, and

    Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds abortion to be intrinsically evil, so much so that the consequences of such practice is grave enough to warrant Excommunication, and

    Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican have all denounced both abortion and human fetal tissue research procured from abortion or deliberately destroyed human embryos, and

    Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church defers to moral conscience as the guideline that states, “In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right”, therefore be it known that:

    A Catholic, according to his good, moral conscience and under direct teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has the absolute right to refuse any medical products derived from aborted fetal tissue, including vaccinations, tissue transplants or future products derived from embryonic stem cell research or other areas that in themselves directly contradict the moral laws of the Church.

    Be it further noted that the Catholic Church encourages the faithful to use alternative products where they are available, rather than those derived from deliberately destroyed human life and that the Catholic Church accepts such human life to begin at the moment of fertilization through natural death.

    These documents include but are not limited to:

    The authority of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
    The Catechism teaching on moral conscience
    The Fourth Lateran Council on moral conscience
    Declaration on Religious Freedom – Dignitas Humanae, Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1965
    Dignity of Moral Conscience (The Church in the Modern World, No. 16)
    Canon Law regarding parental rights
    Familiaris Consortio, 40 Pope John Paul II
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Parental Duty/Respect for the souls of others
    The Catechism teachings on abortion
    The Catechism teachings on human research
    The Teachings of Sacred Scripture
    The Teachings of the founding Church fathers (Apostolic tradition)
    Donum Vitae and Evangelium Vitae




    • Nick Rudnik says:

      Hey, Anthony! I didn’t respond to you, but I appreciate you getting the discussion going. I’ll only say that I am, indeed, Catholic, like you; but the only comment I am giving on both Ebola and vaccination, is the article I’ve written above. But I’d welcome you to continue the discussion with those who have already commented—I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not personally delving into these discussions. But again, I appreciate seeing the spirited debate on these important issues.