Some people are reacting with extreme opinions about what Ebola means for the United States. Some are saying we should ban all travelers from Africa. Others are advocating quarantine for anyone suspected of carrying the virus.
Our global village can no longer stop residents from moving from one corner to another. The Great Wall of China is a remnant of old-world thinking. Travel happens, and little will impede the flow of persons across borders, over time zones, into nations who believe they can keep the metaphorical finger in the dike.
As with HIV and AIDS, it’s not the disease so much but the stigma that prevents people from getting the kind of care that could limit the expansion of the infected area. When we teach people that they will be deprived of freedoms, should they become infected, it creates the disincentive for seeking care. When no one wants to reveal that they may be infected, that secrecy inflames the potential for the infection to spread exponentially, widely, beyond any borders, beyond any limits. What is locked in secrecy has the power to kill.
The best thing we can do is show empathy for those who may be infected, help them to receive the care currently available, and keep encouraging scientists and researchers to continue working on finding cures and treatments. The compassionate way is to fight the growing stigma that arises when low-information individuals proclaim “it’s us versus them.”