I can remember in middle school getting the stomach virus and throwing up so much that I thought my insides had turned out. After that traumatizing experience I decided I no longer wanted to throw up. EVER. Which meant I could no longer get sick. EVER. Even if it was a sickness that didn’t even have a symptom of vomiting. This meant I became deathly afraid of germs. To the point that I needed to carry around hand sanitizer with me everywhere, if anyone touched or breathed on my food I wouldn’t and couldn’t eat it (which led to a significant amount of lunch bullying), and if anyone was sick at school or in my family I would have full-on panic attacks to point that I felt nauseous even though I wasn’t sick.
Admittedly, looking back, it was a horrible way to live, and I wish I could go back to tell my eleven year old self that a little vomiting wouldn’t kill me, and I would probably not die from not getting that 33rd hand wash in for the day. And I definitely shouldn’t let anyone bully me into giving up my lunch because someone breathed on it.
I was a hardcore germaphobe. I went to counseling for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and over the years I’ve reached a more normal level of germ-wariness and not all out panic. I was also a bit of a hypochondriac in that any time I felt the least bit ill I assumed the worst. Like I always thought I had cancer. Or MERSA. Or Swine Flu. It was not a fun way to live, I must say.
I love reading dystopian novels, but a lot of the time the majority of the human race was wiped out in the book by some kind of biologic virus. One of my favorite series that does this is Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden Trilogy in which the Red Lung Virus pretty much killed everyone except for the few humans the vampires could save and use for food in their elite vampire cities.
Everyone else turned into “Rabids” or zombie-like vampires who just rip into anything that gets in their way. Stories like that both intrigue and bother me because if you take away the vampire part, a virus that could spread across the globe quickly and lethally, doesn’t seem all that far fetched. I mean, there was the Black Plague. And the various animal diseases like Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and Mad Cow Disease. They all give me the willies!
And then there’s the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
As soon as it was even barely being reported red flags went off in my brain. If I had been in charge of the universe I would have stopped all outgoing flights from Africa. (No offense Africans, I’d do the same thing on any continent).
And then people started dying, and it really became real. Ebola is a problem. Ebola needs to be stopped. People need to be educated about it—how it spreads, how to fight it, what hope is out there.
Then the American public finally decided to listen to the news and THEY FREAKED SLAM OUT which really causes more harm than good. Essentially they were having the kind of reaction that eleven-year-old Kaitlyn would have had. My brother currently thinks he should go create a bunker to hide from the Ebola-created zombie apocalypse. (He’s not overdramatic, is he?)
So then you have all these different sources telling you DON’T FREAK OUT, Ebola is under control or FREAKING OUT IS NECESSARY because we’re all going to die. People start blaming one another. They start insulting different nationalities and calling them stupid. The healthcare system reveals its holes when a Nigerian man who just got back from Nigeria walks into a Texas hospital and tells them he doesn’t feel well and they SEND HIM HOME like it’s nothing but a common cold.
Ebola is scary. I don’t want an epidemic in America. I don’t want a pandemic in Africa, but there already is one. And neither FREAKING OUT like eleven-year-old, germaphobe Kaitlyn nor ignoring the problem and pretending it won’t affect America is going to stop Ebola from spreading. There has to be a happy medium. Finding that balance between panic and ignorance is what my journey from OCD as a preteen to today has been about. Yes, I still carry around hand sanitizer. But no, I won’t not eat my food because someone breathed on it. Yes, I still detest vomiting. But no, I don’t go into a panic attack if I start feeling a little sick. That balance is the key, and I hope that the American public, media, and government will find that soon as they prepare to deal with the very real health problem of Ebola.