First He Went To The Hospital. Then He Felt The Worst Pain Of His Life. Then Things Got Weird.

Yes, John Green was in Africa. Yes, he was hospitalized shortly thereafter. Internet Diagnosis Machine says ... Ebola!

Er, no, sorry. Really, he was as far away from it in Africa as England is from Afghanistan. He had meningitis, which he apparently got in — well, this is embarrassing — Florida. Green’s brain is still a little on the swollen side, but even so, he turns the Internet’s little mistake into a mirror that shows just how knuckleheaded people can be.

As Green points out, it’d be great if we took our fear of Ebola and channeled it into thinking about how we can help get running water infrastructure, latex gloves, and bleach to the communities that are really at war with this and other infectious diseases. Wanna learn more? Here you go.

Transcript:
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John Green: Good morning, [a good] Tuesday. I'm sorry if this video is a little bit disjointed. The linings of my brain and spinal cord are inflamed, which is pretty uncomfortable.

OK, so last week I sent out a message saying that I was going to miss my vlogbrothers video due to hospitalization, and then I went back to being in like the worst pain of my life. And then, while I was staring at the ceiling begging for the pain to go away, the Internet diagnosed me with Ebola. Like, "John Green Ebola" was a trending search on Twitter. People I knew in real life texted me and were like, "Do they know what it is yet? Is it confirmed?" And I was just like, "Barf," and I don't mean that figuratively.

So 10 days before getting what turned out to be viral meningitis, I was in Ethiopia, which shares a continent with countries like Guinea and Sierra Leone where there is currently an Ebola outbreak. Now, never mind that Ethiopia is as far from this outbreak as England is from Afghanistan. I had recently been on the same continent as Ebola, and now, I was in the hospital, ergo Ebola.

Quick side note, Hank. Ebola is a very serious health crisis in West Africa, but more people are going to die of malaria today than have died from Ebola in the last 10 years combined.

So anyway, when I went to the hospital, the doctors were very concerned. I mean, I might have meningitis or malaria or typhoid or dengue fever, all of which can be fatal. But they weren't worried that I had Ebola.

This is my point though. Even if I had Ebola, it wouldn't have been a big deal. Well, I mean, I guess it would have been a very big deal to like me and my family. It wouldn't have been a big deal from a public health perspective. Like here's what the news would have said, "An American has contracted Ebola shortly after returning from Africa. Ebola Johnny went to Orlando, Florida, and signed books for 1,600 people at a Harry Potter convention, all of whom are now veritably dripping with the disease." But here's the thing, Hank. If I had somehow magically gotten Ebola in Ethiopia - which, to reiterate, is impossible - I wouldn't have given it to any of those 1,600 people at LeakyCon. For one thing, you aren't contagious if you aren't symptomatic. And also, I didn't share bodily fluids with any of those 1,600 people. Call me old-fashioned, Hank, but I like to keep bodily fluid-sharing within my nuclear family.

Ebola is spreading because it's often being treated in healthcare facilities with no running water or latex gloves, which makes sterilization functionally impossible. Just having water and bleach would prevent a lot of these Ebola cases. This isn't some terrifying, uncontrollable super-bug.

There's now the evidence that there might be treatments or vaccines or both within a year. But the most important thing to remember, Hank, is that this outbreak is happening because of poor health infrastructure.

Hank, I think we're obsessed with Ebola partly because it's novel, partly because it's so fatal, but partly because most diseases endemic to the developing world seem other. I mean more than half a million people are going to die of malaria this year, but unlike Ebola, we don't think of malaria as a disease that's coming for "us," whatever the hell "us" means.

Now, of course, Ebola isn't coming for this vague "us" either. It's not going to spread widely in the U.S. or Europe. But regardless, when Americans try to make the Ebola outbreak about America, we do a great disservice to ourselves and to the communities actually affected by this horrible disease. In Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone, health workers have to choose between abandoning their work and putting themselves and their kids at risk for Ebola. And they have to make that choice because of inadequate infrastructure and supplies. Addressing that problem instead of freaking out about the disease coming to whoever "us" is will actually reduce Ebola transmission, and in the process, it will also save many, many lives from malaria and typhoid and also meningitis. Which brings me back to my infected brain lining. Hank, it turns out that I almost certainly got meningitis not in Ethiopia, but in Florida.

Oh, Orlando, city of my youth, city of my inflamed meninges. Hank, it's going to take a little bit for my meninges to completely de-itis, so I apologize if I'm not around quite as much in the coming weeks.

But Nerdfighters, thank you so much for putting stuff on your heads to cheer me up. It really did the trick when I desperately needed it. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This video is by the inimitable John Green, who thankfully still runs at light speed even when his meninges are swollen. You can Like Green on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. Thumbnail image by Rocky Lubbers, used under Creative Commons license.

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