Bike ride panic highlights absurdity of Ebola fear

The absurdity of the fear about Ebola reached a new milestone today when a woman went for a bike ride.

Kaci Hickox is the epidemiologist who volunteered in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders, and was detained in a hospital in New Jersey upon her return to the states, and then was released to her home in Maine where she’s been in a “voluntary” quarantine. And by “voluntary,” we mean a cop has been outside her house to make sure she didn’t go anywhere.

But this is Maine and if there’s something that doesn’t sit well with a few people in Maine, it’s being told you can’t do something when there’s only a political reason behind it.

This line in the Associated Press story today highlights the absurdity:

But Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who canceled campaign events to keep tabs on the situation, maintained that the state must be “vigilant” to protect others.

The governor is in a close race for re-election. Not long after the bike ride, the Bangor Daily News reports LePage’s popularity has increased. The polling period included the time during which LePage talked tough on Ebola.

There’s a good reason why politicians are ignoring science: Voters ignore science.

The people who are most likely to know the nature of science and Ebola issued statements today, the Bangor Daily News says.

“The American Nurses Association opposes the mandatory quarantine of health care professionals who return to the United States from West African nations where Ebola is widespread,” ANA President Pamela Cipriano said in that organization’s press release. “ANA supports registered nurse Kaci Hickox … in her challenge of a 21-day quarantine imposed by state officials in Maine. … After testing negative twice for Ebola, nurse Hickox, who continues to be symptom free, poses no public threat.”

Cipriano states that the nurses association, the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association support the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance “based on the best available scientific evidence. The CDC guidance would not require a mandatory 21-day quarantine of Hickox given risk levels outlined by the CDC in her particular case.”

From all accounts, Hickox did not exchange bodily fluids with anyone during her ride.

“It was a nice bike ride,” she said.

Related: Stopping Ebola: Mali Matters, Maine and Manhattan Don't (Businessweek).