Last night, New York City found itself panicking following the first confirmed diagnosis of Ebola within the city.
The patient is a 33-year-old doctor, Craig Spencer, who recently returned to the United States from Guinea, one of the countries most heavily impacted by Ebola in West Africa.
Spencer had been working in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). MSF is one of the most respected humanitarian organizations in the world. It provides medical aid to people in some of the most dangerous locations across the globe.
From what we know, Spencer returned to the United States on October 17. He monitored himself closely upon his return, taking all of the proper precautions, and didn't show any signs of the virus until Thursday morning (Oct. 23).
Upon that time, Dr. Spencer took his temperature and found that he had a 100.3-degree fever; he promptly called healthcare officials and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
All of this is good news. Individuals infected with Ebola are not contagious until symptoms begin to show. Given that Spencer quickly got himself to a hospital and was isolated after they appeared, there's a slim chance that he passed the virus on to other people.
Not to mention, NYC was already expecting and prepared for an isolated incident like this, so there is really nothing to panic about.
Yet, it's apparent that Spencer's diagnosis has prompted a great deal of anger among a number of people. These individuals want to blame him for putting everyone else at risk.
You'll never guess who doesn't have any sympathy for Dr. Craig Spencer. #ThisGuy — Ignatius J Reilly (@Zexy_Commander) October 24, 2014
I'm not one to lose my head over Ebola, but this Craig Spencer story just makes me a little angry.. get well soon you careless man. — Tyler Bills (@villadelph) October 24, 2014
Dr. Craig Spencer is a freaking idiot! He put so many innocent people at risk and it's absolutely shameful! The man is beyond selfish. — Benjamin Bosanac (@BPBosanac) October 24, 2014
What all of these people fail to realize is that he put himself at risk to save all of us and others around the world.
Here are three major reasons why the doctors who treat Ebola patients are heroes.
1. The Ebola outbreak will only be contained and defeated with the world's help.
The Ebola epidemic is occurring in West Africa, not the United States. Thousands of people have died from Ebola in that region, while only one has died from it within the United States.
Not to mention, the individual who died wasn't even American, he was a Liberian national. In order for this outbreak to be contained and defeated, West Africa will need the world's assistance.
When it comes down to it, it doesn't have the personnel and resources to do that at present.
Simply put, if we don't send our best and brightest over to Africa to quell this deadly outbreak, it is far more likely to spread. Think about this issue like a sinking boat with a hole in the middle.
If we don't plug the hole, the boat will continue to sink. You can't just ignore the hole, or place barriers around it, and expect the water to stop flowing in.
Dr. Spencer was extremely brave and selfless to volunteer his time, energy and perhaps even his life, to combat a disease in a country that's not even his own. He wasn't careless, he cared too much.
2. Doctors have a much greater risk of contracting Ebola and dying.
This is a war, only this time the enemy is a disease. Like many conflicts in the past, it requires volunteers willing to go to the front lines. There will be casualties; some will survive, some will not.
At this point, 443 healthcare workers have been infected during the outbreak, and 244 have died. Despite that fact, brave individuals like Dr. Craig Spencer are still volunteering to go fight the disease.
The vast majority of us are not at risk of contracting Ebola, it's not nearly as contagious as most people believe.
It's only communicable when an infected individual is showing symptoms. Likewise, it can only be contracted by coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic infected person.
Accordingly, when you send yourself directly into the middle of the chaos, like Dr. Spencer, you have a much greater chance of becoming infected. Individuals like Spencer are the reason we will beat this disease.
3. The death rate in West Africa from Ebola is astronomical compared to the United States.
Ebola is certainly a frightening disease, but it can be contained and defeated. Nigeria and Senegal are proof of that. These two African nations were also impacted by the disease, but were just declared completely Ebola free.
Likewise, while the survival rate for Ebola in West Africa is around 30 percent, in the United States, it's around 80 percent. Patients treated for the disease in the United States are much more likely to survive, and much less likely to spread the disease.
This is because the United States has the infrastructure, knowledge and resources to contain and defeat this disease.
Ebola is not a death sentence. People can and do survive.
To put all of this into context, healthcare professionals who travel to West Africa will do so knowing that they have an enormous risk of contracting the disease and possibly dying. Yet, they go anyway.
These selfless individuals do this because they feel they have a duty to help the sick and needy. Accordingly, they should be commended, not attacked.
Photo Courtesy: Moral Definition