The current Ebola outbreak is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times,” Ian Smith, the World Health Organization’s executive director, announced at a mid-October press conference.
Huh? Worse than the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19? Extrapolated to today’s world population, that would mean 60 million to 150 million deaths. Worse than AIDS, with its 35 million deaths?
But the media weren’t asking skeptical questions. The next day, reporting on a separate WHO conference, a New York Times headline blared: “New Ebola Cases May Soon Reach 10,000 a Week, Officials Predict.”
The “soon” in that warning from the WHO’s Bruce Aylward was “by the first week in December.”
Well, the WHO has now reported cases for that period. Total: 529. It was no fluke; the average over the last three weeks was 440.
You’ve been lied to, folks. For months.
In fact, the Ebola epidemic peaked a full month before those press conferences, in mid-September. Says who? The WHO. In its data, which is available to anybody with Internet access.
It peaked at the same time the WHO was demanding a billion dollars to prevent the epidemic from getting far worse — and before President Obama pledged $1.26 billion and sent in the troops and the European Union pledged another $1.26 billion. In fact, before almost any outside intervention.
The political chiefs at the WHO — and at our own Centers for Disease Control — were promoting hysteria in bids for more funding. They either refused to look for the facts, or ignored them.
The simple truth is this: Epidemics have been peaking and disappearing throughout history, long before there were health organizations, vaccines or effective treatments. Ebola was no different.
Where did the 10,000 cases figure come from? Apparently from the imagination of Aylward, the WHO’s Ebola head, who produced it from nowhere at that press conference.
The WHO never published any support for Aylward’s estimate, but merely rallied around him afterward. (When I asked about the basis of the number, the WHO gave me a bizarre explanation that combined cumulative cases with new ones.)
Throughout the epidemic, health agencies and other scientists released outrageous estimates that the media faithfully relayed — and faithfully forgot by the time the “warnings” proved false.
In August, the WHO predicted over 20,000 cases by Oct. 2. By early October, the media were repeating new WHO warnings without noting that the agency’s immediate-prior warnings had already proved false.
Also in August, the Centers for Disease Control published an astounding estimate of 540,000 to 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20. For the record, with 36 days to go before Jan. 20, total cases reported have been fewer than 19,000.
I seem to be the only one who publicly challenged these numbers at the time the WHO and the CDC issued them.
The World Bank added its two cents — and then some. It predicted Ebola could cost West Africa $36.2 billion. I wrote it was utter nonsense, and at least the bank has admitted it was wrong: Its estimate is now down to $3 billion to $4 billion.
Then there was Laurie Garrett, a Council on Foreign Relations fellow in the U.S. who has grotesquely exaggerated every major epidemic since the 1996 Ebola outbreak. (Her serial sensationalism has reaped great rewards: She’s the only writer ever awarded all three of the big “Ps” of journalism: the Pulitzer, the Polk and the Peabody.)
“Wake up, fools,” Garrett wrote in August. “What’s going on in West Africa now [is the] movie ‘Contagion,’ ” — where the death toll hit 26 million.
All the hysteria led to fears, some understandable and others just hysterical, about Ebola coming here — which I debunked in my Aug. 5 Ebola column in The Post, “Why Ebola’s Nothing To Worry About.”
That prompted the American Council on Science and Health to label me a “know-nothing,” though I’ve had an impeccable track record on debunking disease-outbreak hysteria since AIDS in 1987. (This accuracy may explain the lack of “Ps” on my shelf.)
Don’t get me wrong: U.S. troops (mostly combat engineers who built new facilities)
and folks like Doctors Without Borders have done great good in the face of this epidemic.
As for the “U.S. epidemic,” we might want to scratch “home of the brave” from the motto. The hysterical response to two infections and zero American deaths was shameful, including the publication that gave us “Six Reasons to Panic.” And just days ago Congress approved Pres. Obama’s request for a stunning $5.4 billion to “fight” a disease that’s almost cadaverous. Contingency funding for less “glamorous” endemic diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and childhood diarrhea – each of which kills more people every few days than have died of Ebola during the entire outbreak – equals $0.00.
When the WHO finally admits that the epidemic never reached the levels the WHO had predicted, it will surely claim some credit for the lower numbers — suggesting that quick and dramatic action staved off disaster.
The global health bureaucrats certainly won’t admit that their own numbers show that the epidemic peaked before the WHO had even begun to act.
They’ve gotten away with it time and again. With AIDS, SARS, avian flu, swine flu and two past Ebola hysterias.
And they’ll keep repeating this Chicken Little game as long as the media keep falling for it and the politicians keep rewarding it with billions of dollars.