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Ebola vs. stupidity

October 11, 2014

People do not think rationally about risk. The average American is more at risk from lightning strike or dying of the seasonal flu than getting Ebola. The one and only thing that determines how that risk changes going forward is how large the epidemic peaks in Africa. The world is small today, and diseases don’t respect borders. Whether tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands are infected there determines the risk of cases ending up here. This is a disease whose outbreaks peak. The size of that peak matters. Which is why the most important thing the US now can do with regard to Ebola is help contain the outbreaks in Africa:

The catch is that you can’t truly wipe out the Ebola threat, even for Americans, without controlling it overseas. As long as it’s un-contained, it will continue to make its way to other countries—carried by people over land, sea, or air — because the world is simply too interconnected to shut down borders completely.

Given the mathematics of infectious spread, time is of the essence. The quicker we act, the smaller the number of people struck. This is one of the cases where decisive action means tens of thousands of lives saved, for little money spent.

Sen. James Inhofe is blocking funds for that.

Phyllis Schlafly blames Obama.

Louis Farrakhan blames Henry Kissinger.

No disease puts us at as much risk as those whose influence far, far outruns their knowledge.

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