No it isn’t, but apparently nowadays all it takes to make a piece of ‘news’ true is to get it shared on social media. Journalistic ethics be damned.

Amidst all the panic-mongering and sensational headlines, here are four things the ebola ‘scare’ has taught us.

1. Any excuse is good to justify racism.

It’s not that I want to be racist, but unless I show just how cold and callous I am towards fellow human beings, I might just:

a. Be murdered in my own bed.

b. Wind up homeless, jobless and lifeless (being murdered not in my bed remains an option)

c. Contract some obscure disease that all evidence shows can’t possibly survive in the western world. But hey, screw science! Ebola!

When you find yourself in danger of being exposed to someone whose skin colour doesn’t match the exact shade of yours, choose the option that is most likely to apply to you.

Or heck, why limit yourself to one option? Tick them all, it just makes your argument stronger, right? With those whose IQ fails to give the sheep a run for their money, maybe. With the rest of us who have both a brain and empathy, not so much.

2. Spin is always preferable to real news.

Real news can be so boring.

“Elderly woman dies at airport” vs “Ebola terror at airport”. Hmm, let’s see which header gets the most online shares. Well, I have some real news for you. Just because it’s guaranteed to get shared, it doesn’t make it right, or true.

Before you click that ‘share’ button, ask yourself the following question: am I making a fool of myself by condoning xenophobia? Hint – if the words ‘Mirror’, ‘Fox News’ or ‘Daily Mail’ are anywhere in the URL, the answer is a guaranteed ‘yes’. Just do the rest of us a favour and don’t pollute our newsfeeds by sharing.

Oh, and another thing. If the source of the news is www.obscurewebsiteIneverheardof.com, there’s a very good chance it’s a hoax. Particularly if none of the major media houses like BBC or CNN are reporting it.

Which means that no, Italy is not in the throes of an ebola outbreak.

3. Basic science and biology remain a mystery to most.

Those primary school lessons about viruses and how they spread didn’t do much good did they? Some viruses are airborne, others aren’t. Ebola happens to form part of the latter group.

Does this make a difference to the level of scare-mongering? Does it heck. Yesterday at the carpark I actually heard a woman urge someone to cross the road whenever they see a migrant approaching. Because, quote unquote, you never know...they might be infected with ebola, it’s all over the news!

Lady, if you’re in the habit of exchanging bodily fluids with random strangers you meet in the street, chances are you have bigger problems than the remote threat of succumbing to ebola.

Even if the disease were airborne, you’d have to get pretty close and personal to someone before you contract it. I don’t know about you guys, but my usual protocol whenever anyone wishes to use the same stretch of pavement as me is to politely (note the keyword here) make space for them to go through.

I’d have thought that this is the same basic protocol followed by everyone, but what do I know?

4. Ignorance is more likely to kill us than ebola.

A disease that has, so far, killed only hundreds world-wide gets us more in a tizzy than dangers that are far more pressing in our own country. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Malta is one of the countries where sexually transmitted diseases are continuously on the rise in teenagers. You can also read about it here: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120625/local/gu-clinic-opened-at-mater-dei.425913.

Do we freak out about it, as we do about a disease that hasn’t actually made it to Europe yet? Of course not, quite the opposite. We are quite happy to pretend that all Maltese teenagers are virgins and to continue failing at implementing an aggressive sexual health education policy in schools.

The statistics for STDs continue rising and, in the meantime, we worry that ebola might kill us.

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