Ebola and People’s Overreaction?

So I’m listening to the radio in the car on the way home from work and not surprisingly there’s comments about the current Ebola crisis in West Africa – it is a major headline after all and serious matter. In fact, as I was listening this particular broadcast was talking about the fact that Ebola had made its way to Dallas, Texas from Liberia via a male visitor.

Now, what got me surprised was that commentators and experts were saying that people should be panicked or scared of Ebola (in the Western world anyway) and I agree with them. But then they went on to kind of criticize people for being scared; taking their kids out of school, buying masks and disinfectants. They were saying that people were over reacting and there was no need to do this sort of thing. Yet, when flu season in making the rounds – in schools, office buildings, subway systems and shopping malls – people are blamed for not taking the proper precautions to ensure they don’t catch the flu, getting sick and getting other sick (and taking a flu shot of course). So what’s the difference?

There isn’t a pill people can take to proactively prevent themselves from catching Ebola, even though you can’t catch it from just walking past someone on the street. This is what people will do to protect themselves, to take themselves out of possible harm’s way, I don’t think that’s over-reacting. Yes, buying hazmat suits might be bit overboard but taking one’s loved one’s out of school and not interacting in areas where illnesses can spread – malls, subways etc. – is natural for people. So which is it? Do we protect ourselves proactively or not? Do we ensure our safety and that of our loved ones, or do we continue as if nothing is happening?

It seems to me that the Public Relations people are sending mixed messages. Yes, people don’t need to overreact but at the same time, they must have some reaction? Surely, if there is a disease that has a probability of harming others – remote as experts say it is – then the common person will do what is necessary to make themselves feel safe, even if that isn’t what experts want them to do. What would they expect people to do – nothing? If people get sick from others, they instantly state that preventative measure should have been taken; so it’s mixed messages.

We’ll see how things play out over the coming days, weeks and months in Dallas and any other western city/country where Ebola pops up. Let’s hope the experts are right and nothing comes of it over here but if it does, who’ll be ready; those that put some level of preventative measures in place or those that did nothing? Is a bit of overreaction better than none at all? Heck, it could save lives.

In the meantime, reach out to your local charity organizations and contribute so that organizations can help those who can’t be as prepared – or responsive – as we can. They need the help their future depends on it.

© StoneRoad 2015
A.Alex Fullick has over 18 years’ experience working in Business Continuity and is the author of numerous books, including “Heads in the Sand” and “BIA: Building the Foundation for a Strong Business Continuity Program.”

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