April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

OH MY GOD, EBOLA HAS COME TO AMERICA!

That is not how I reacted when I heard that Thomas Duncan, a Liberian man in Texas, had tested positive for the terrible disease that’s been all over the news lately. Obviously it felt a bit unnerving to hear that a disease that seemed to be confined to faraway West Africa had reached our shores. But Texas is also pretty far away (and I’ve done long, seemingly endless hikes that are just in New Jersey, so I do have a sense of distance) and the government would know how to handle it, right? There were some slip-ups and sadly Duncan didn’t make it, but the CDC learned from its mistakes and the next two people in the United States to catch it, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, actually made full recoveries.

OH MY GOD, THERE’S EBOLA IN MANHATTAN!

That was actually not my reaction to hearing that a New York City hospital is currently taking care of a doctor, Craig Spencer, who came back from Guinea and tested positive for Ebola. It is a bit nerve-wracking to hear that the hospital Spencer is currently at, Bellevue, is only a few blocks away from one of my closest friends. But at this point I’ve learned that a few city blocks could mean thousands and thousands of people and tons of buildings and other stuff between my friend’s house and Bellevue, and Bellevue is taking a ton of safety precautions and being very careful anyway to make sure no one else catches the disease.

But wait–OH MY GOD, THERE MIGHT’VE BEEN EBOLA IN NEW JERSEY!

That was also not my reaction to the news that a nurse at Newark Airport, Kaci Hickox, was quarantined for possibly having Ebola. I mean, first off, the total number of times I’ve flown on an airplane is less than ten–it’s not like I’m racking up frequent-flyer miles. And second, obviously the government reacted quickly and vigorously to make sure no one would be affected. I heard that it may have overstepped legal boundaries and gone a little too far in quarantining Hickox, which is wrong–no one who went to West Africa to do the major mitzvah of trying to help quell the outbreak should be treated like a criminal–but at the least the vast majority of New Jerseyans should be completely safe.

I don’t say any of this to minimize the horror that is Ebola; my heart goes out to anyone who’s caught it and I sincerely pray a cure or solution will be found soon to stop the epidemic. But I’m also not exactly panicking about it yet.

Maybe you could chalk this up to all of the other panic-worthy events in my life happening now. With the SATs looming and a thousand harsh tests and the school play in less than a month and the lack of sleep I’m getting and so on… Well, there’s no real room for much thought about Ebola.

But still, it’s all over the news, people are panicking, and it’s coming closer and closer to home. Shouldn’t I be at least a little worried? Should I try to be more careful around people and watch where I am so I don’t even have a remote risk of catching Ebola?

If God forbid it gets to that point, I’ll be ready for it because of everything I’ve been hearing or reading about the Ebola disease. But on the flip side, I don’t want to panic because of all of that. I mean, what do I accomplish by panicking and guarding myself because of a few reports of Ebola somewhat-but-not-really-near-me? For a disease that’s spread via body fluids, really nothing. Sure, I could wash my hands more (technically I should be doing that anyway because of the flu-and-cold season). But otherwise I’m coming up blank with anything else I could really do at this point, short of wearing a hazmat suit. And I have a feeling that breaks Ramaz’s dress code.

It gets to the point where as much as I want to remain informed, seeing so many sensationalist stories about Ebola in the news is getting to be a bit too much. If I read every single thing about it and overthink every little bit I hear, I will start panicking, and that’s not a good thing. I definitely should pray for those affected by the epidemic, but thank God, there isn’t very much of a chance of getting it myself. It all comes down to finding a balance, like so many other things in my life: staying informed and knowing about what’s going on, while not letting it change my life. At this point, I’ve just got to keep moving forward.

I wouldn’t even hesitate about staying over by my friend who lives near Bellevue if I had to (I often need to sleep over in New York City when I have a school obligation that goes late). And I won’t even ask about bringing along a hazmat suit.

Oren Oppenheim, age 17, is a junior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist. You can email him at [email protected].

By Oren Oppenheim

 

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