Rumors of officials "lying" to the world, Ebola transmitting via "airborne route", and "pandemic potential" persist. With the rise in case counts is the paralleled rise in rumor. CIDRAP has played this game, as has Laurie Garrett, with spread to peripheral figures in Ebola response who have often had no formal training in medicine or research... but were proximal to historic outbreak sites.
It is truly amazing to watch the Suspectible-Exposed-Infected-Recovered (SEIR) dynamic of meme transmission.
It is well known that people with an anxious disposition (i.e. clinical depression or anxiety) are often psychologically vulnerable in the context of crises and disasters. They are quite suspectible to the transmission of memes such as we are actively seeing. Unfortunately, many of the susceptible include members of our front line medical community.
What is also interesting is the fight that meme vectors put up when confronted. Like a wild animal in a corner.
But time to point out a few pieces of data:
- Meme spread effected the UN Special Representative in his comments to European press about his concerns for Ebola being "airborne".
- The UN subsequently issued a public clarification of the Special Representative's comments.
- Then, the World Health Organization was compelled to issue a clear statement regarding the transmission of Ebola.
We have deliberately made a few controversial posts here on this blog to highlight a few facts:
- To point out we are indeed dealing with a heavily mutated Ebola virus, and yes it is present in Dallas, TX and Spain right now.
- However, we are not observing unusually high or aggressive transmission of Ebola virus in either location to-date. Admittedly too premature to tell, but we note we are at Day 10/11 post-exposure in the case of Dallas. We are currently departing the "sweet spot" of virus incubation which occurs at 7-10 days. We expect identification of 2 or less of the core contact list seroconverting.
Time for people to calm down and exert professionalism. Time for people to critically review the source of hyperbole and hype, checking for the following characteristics in the source:
- Is this media speculation?
- Does the source of the information have any formal training?
- Does the source have specific experience in Ebola research or ground operations?
- What is the source's track record of statements? Are they often proven correct?
- What potential Conflicts of Interest does the source have such as industry funding or sales as a driver?
In a society where information is so freely available and moving quickly, it is difficult to pause for a moment and consider the validity of what is being said. Failure to do so enables transmission of the "Other Ebola": the highly infectious meme of fallacy.