The following is an account of what would happen if you did, in fact, come down with Ebola, according to interviews with a number of infectious disease specialists.
* * *
You wake up and feel a little weak. It’s almost like you have the flu. You stumble to the medicine cabinet and grab a thermometer. You have a fever, so you pop two Tylenols and go back to bed. The fever does not go away. You see your primary care physician, who says it looks like flu and to call her if the symptoms change.
The next day, the fever is going strong, and you feel even worse, wracked with chills and a headache. You remember that you recently butchered a West African fruit bat, for some reason. You call 911.
And blah, blah, blah, happy talk.
Here’s a different possibility.
You are an illegal Chinese alien, working off the cost of your passage in indentured servitude in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.
You awaken in your “worker dorm,” a one-bedroom apartment that is filled with floor to ceiling bunk beds. 35 other people live with you in that one bedroom apartment. Your bed is separated from other beds by an 18 inch space below the next bed, and aisles between the beds also 18 inches wide.
You awaken one morning with flu-like symptoms. You wish you could stay in bed, but you have to go to work, and so you do. You spend the day at the restaurant as a busboy, hacking and sneezing on plates of food as you deliver them to customers.
The next day you feel worse. You wish you could go to a doctor, but you have to go to work and, besides, you would never dream of going anywhere near a person of authority. You don’t speak English, and your overseers have told you that contacting authorities for anything will get you deported, and they will take the remainder of what you owe them out of your family back home.
Four days later you are unable to get out of bed. Blood is running from your ears. You are delirious. Your fellow workers try to rouse you physically, but they are unable to. Eventually an overseer comes by to see what’s going on, but you have died.
They leave your body intact until nightfall, then drag your corpse out and leave in a dumpster in an alley, where sanitation workers discover it later in the day.
Two days later, several of your former roommates begin to cough and sneeze…
The overseers, worried that the apartment has become infested with “evil spirits,” close it down and parcel out the workers to half a dozen other dorms….
I’ve got a million of them.
BTW, note all the assumptions in the original account:
1. You have thermometers, Tylenol, and a medicine cabinet.
2. You have a primary care physician.
3. You would call an ambulance.
4. The med techs would instantly spot “suspected Ebola.” As if they didn’t haul hacking, sneezing, vomiting folks dozens of times a week.
5. The infectious disease “investigators” would be able to find anybody connected with the victim who would even talk to them.
And so on, and so forth.
History teaches us that in the aftermath of terrible disasters, cases that didn’t fit the convenient assumptions will be dismissed as “Well, who could possibly have imagined that…?”