EDITORIAL: Fear can spread like a deadly disease

Taking measures now like quarantines and limiting travel prevents a bigger problem later.

Ebola isn’t likely to be the world-ending pandemic doomsayers have been predicting since at least the 1960s — or longer, if you happen to be a fan of Nostradamus.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to be, nor should governments be chided for taking measures to limit the spread of the disease. Canada has lately come under fire from human rights organizations for restricting travel from the worst-affected African countries, where the deadly disease has already taken thousands of lives.

We don’t want to add to the fear-mongering surrounding Ebola, but neither should its deadliness be set aside, or its potential to spread through the population if measures aren’t taken.

People now look back on the Y2K crisis, calling it a fizzle, or worse, a hoax. “There wasn’t a computer meltdown, nothing happened,” is a common complaint. Truth is, a lot happened. A lot of hard work was done leading up to the 2000 to update software and fix mission-critical hardware, so yes, the planes didn’t fall out of the sky on Jan. 1, 2000.

Ebola needs to be dealt with the same way. Taking measures now like quarantines and limiting travel prevents a bigger problem later. Considering its long incubation period and the short time it takes to kill its host, Ebola is unlikely to get a foothold — but the danger of a pandemic can’t be set aside. SARS, hantavirus, Rift Valley fever, even the ancient black plague have all presented the possibility of a pandemic at one time or another. But we don’t need to look to exotic diseases. Even influenza, the flu that we deal with on a yearly basis has proven potential to spread out of control — the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic killed up to 100 million people around the world. So while world governments do what they can to prevent the spread of Ebola and end that crisis, you can do your own bit to prevent the spread of a different deadly disease by getting your annual flu shot.