Hiccups could mean Ebola!

My pal G-Dub wrote a book called “The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death,” in which Chapter 7 carried the title, “Hiccups Can Mean Cancer.” I thought of Gene’s book yesterday when looking at the official Web site of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The hospital informs us of the symptoms of Ebola, and here they are in full:

Fever
Headache
Joint and muscle aches
Sore throat
Weakness
Diarrhea
Vomiting
Stomach pain
Rash
Red eyes
Hiccups
Internal and external bleeding

This basically describes my physical condition on a typical morning in the cubicle at work. Rash, red eyes, mysterious aches, ephemeral pains, a vague sense of doom, chronic ennui, flyaway hair and ominous hiccups form the baseline from which I routinely deteriorate into genuine sickness and usually some kind of hemorrhagic fever and/or coma that inhibits my ability to file copy. My editors are always standing around my desk wondering if I have a pulse. They poke me and announce, “He’s faking!”

For the record, Mount Sinai states: “If you have any of these [symptoms] do not assume it is due to Ebola. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions.” So that’s reassuring.

Mount Sinai, as you know, is where a patient is being monitored for possible Ebola virus disease. I’ll be surprised if any of the bridge-and-tunnel commuters cross into Manhattan today after the way the tabs handled the story.

Seems to me that, as a society, we are sometimes a bit quick to assume the fetal position. Ebola virus gets hyped because it is so lethal, but our reporting indicates that this is not anything for people to spend much time worrying about.

As the worst Ebola outbreak in history unfolds in West Africa, The Post's Joel Achenbach explains how the deadly virus wreaks havoc on the human body. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

Ebola isn’t terribly contagious, because it’s not an airborne virus and patients can’t spread the disease unless they’re actually sick — and the sickness is severe enough that it usually puts people flat on their back. I understand the concern of Donald Trump that he might catch it during his subway ride to work, but that’s not a likely scenario. [See also this essay by a woman who imported Marburg virus into the U.S.  Marburg is similar to Ebola. Note that, despite having contacts with many people while she was already showing symptoms, the virus didn’t infect anyone else.]

What I find striking is that the doctors who work on infectious disease at Emory University Hospital are eager to help someone who has Ebola virus disease. They’re not scared! And they’re the ones who will actually (willingly) have contact with the patients.

Everyone should read the Richard Preston story in The New Yorker about the doctors and nurses in Africa who have cared for Ebola patients — and in many cases died in the process. The nurses were working 12-hour shifts in biohazard suits. They were supposed to get a $30 a month hazard pay bonus but the Sierra Leone government didn’t pay up. Hmmm … maybe we shouldn’t complain about our jobs today.

Less fear, more compassion — there’s a recipe for a healthier world.

Here’s our story on the experimental serum given the two American missionaries who have been evacuated to Atlanta.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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