Category Archives: Health Care

A Shrink And A Proctologist Walk Into A Bar….

3d-Animasi-Doctor-Duck-Walking-Animated-Animal

Best friends graduated from medical school at the same time and decided that in spite of two different specialties, they would open a practice together to share office space and personnel.

Dr. Smith was the psychiatrist and Dr. Jones was the proctologist; they put up a sign reading: Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones: Hysterias and Posteriors. The town council was livid and insisted they change it.

The docs changed it to read: Schizoids and Hemorrhoids. This was also not acceptable so they again changed the sign to read Catatonics and High Colonics – no go. Next they tried Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives – thumbs down again.

Then came Minds and Behinds – still no good. Another attempt resulted in Lost Souls and Butt Holes – unacceptable again! So they tried Nuts and Butts – no way. Freaks and Cheeks – still no good. Loons and Moons – forget it. Almost at their wit’s end, the docs finally came up with:

Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones – Specializing in Odds and Ends.

Everybody loved it.
get-attachment
~Steve~                                H/T   Hujonwi

Nurse quarantined in NJ: “The US must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity”

hickox

Dallas News: (Editor’s note: Kaci Hickox, a nurse with degrees from the University of Texas at Arlington and the Johns Hopkins University, has been caring for Ebola patients while on assignment with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone. Upon her return to the U.S. on Friday, she was placed in quarantine at a New Jersey hospital. She has tested negative in a preliminary test for Ebola, but the hospital says she will remain under mandatory quarantine for 21 days and will be monitored by public health officials. Dr. Seema Yasmin, a Dallas Morning News staff writer, worked with Hickox as a disease detective with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With Yasmin’s help, Hickox wrote this first-person piece exclusively for the News.)

I am a nurse who has just returned to the U.S. after working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone – an Ebola-affected country. I have been quarantined in New Jersey. This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me.

I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.

I arrived at the Newark Liberty International Airport around 1 p.m. on Friday, after a grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone. I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a “hello.”

I told him that I have traveled from Sierra Leone and he replied, a little less enthusiastically: “No problem. They are probably going to ask you a few questions.”

He put on gloves and a mask and called someone. Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.

One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.

Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.

I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.

Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me. I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.

Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101. The female officer looked smug. “You have a fever now,” she said.

I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.

I was left alone in the room for another three hours. At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.

Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong.

I had spent a month watching children die, alone. I had witnessed human tragedy unfold before my eyes. I had tried to help when much of the world has looked on and done nothing.

At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don’t have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felts my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.” My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.

I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?

I recalled my last night at the Ebola management center in Sierra Leone. I was called in at midnight because a 10-year-old girl was having seizures. I coaxed crushed tablets of Tylenol and an anti-seizure medicine into her mouth as her body jolted in the bed. It was the hardest night of my life. I watched a young girl die in a tent, away from her family.

With few resources and no treatment for Ebola, we tried to offer our patients dignity and humanity in the face of their immense suffering.

The epidemic continues to ravage West Africa. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that as many as 15,000 people have died from Ebola. We need more health care workers to help fight the epidemic in West Africa.  The U.S. must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity.

Well you are dealing with the government, since when do they care about dignity and humanity? The nurse should be thankful for the treatment she is receiving while being monitored for carrying a potentially-deadly virus. At least she’s not at a VA facility.

P.S. Guess where the nurse works at (not once mentioned in the article)?  From her LinkedIn page:

“Epidemic Intelligence Service fellow based in Las Vegas (Southern Nevada Health District). The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) is a two year fellowship in applied epidemiology with the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). Instruction focus includes applied epidemiology, biostatistics, public health surveillance, scientific writing, and working with the media, as well as emerging public health issues.”

h/t Weasel Zippers

DCG

What’s your aging IQ? Take this quiz!

Web MD has a short quiz testing what you know about aging — why we wrinkle; do we grow shorter; do we need less sleep as we age….

To take the quiz, click here — then report back to us how you did!

P.S. I got an astonishing 12/12 score, which means I know way too much about aging. LOL

P.P.S. Many FOTM readers are boomers, like I am. Remember the Beatles song, “When I’m sixty-four”? How many of you now think — as we did when we first heard the song — 64 is really really old? LOL

~Eowyn

Now There Can Be No Doubt: Obamacare Has Increased Non-Group Premiums In Nearly All States

obamacare

Forbes: Remember this categorical assurance from President Obama?

“We’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year. .  .  . We’ll do it by the end of my first term as president of the United States”

OK, it’s probably a little unfair to take some June 2008 campaign “puffery” literally–even though it was reiterated by candidate Obama’s economic policy advisor, Jason Furman in a sit-down with a New York Times reporter: “‘We think we could get to $2,500 in savings by the end of the first term, or be very close to it.” Moreover, President Obama subsequently doubled-down on his promise in July 2012, assuring small business owners “your premiums will go down.”  Fortunately, the Washington Post fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, honestly awarded the 2012 claim Three Pinocchios (“Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions”).

Unfortunately, this has never settled the debate. When the Society of Actuaries estimated spring 2013 that the ACA would result in increasing claims costs by an average of 32 percent nationally by 2017, such estimates could be dismissed as “projections” since at the time of this study, actual premiums in the Exchanges had not yet been announced.  A subsequent plethora of studies showed there had been double-digit increases in premiums (when comparing actual Exchange premiums to previously-prevailing premiums in the non-group market). However, virtually all of these studies focused only on Exchange premiums rather than premiums in the entire non-group market (only half of which consists of Exchange coverage). As a consequence, Obamacare proponents tended to dismiss these studies either as partisan attacks or methodologically limited, making what amounts to apples-to-oranges comparisons.

However, a new study from the well-respected and non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (and published by Brookings Institution), overcomes the limitations of these prior studies by examining what happened to premiums in the entire non-group market. The bottom line? In 2014, premiums in the non-group market grew by 24.4% compared to what they would have been without Obamacare.  Of equal importance, this careful state-by-state assessment showed that premiums rose in all but 6 states (including Washington DC).  It’s worth unpacking this study a bit to understand the ramification of these findings.

Non-Group Premiums Rose in 45 States Due to Obamacare

The non-group market can only be accurately assessed on a state-by-state basis. Obamacare. The law creates a single risk pool in each state for non-group coverage. That is, health insurers can sell policies inside or outside the Exchanges but they all are part of the same risk pool.  Unlike virtually all other studies that have been conducted to date, this new study examined premium data from both Exchange and non-Exchange plans, i.e., providing a picture of the complete non-group market rather than one segment.  This is crucially important since in nearly one third of states (16), Exchange coverage constitutes 40% or less of the entire non-group market (Table 1).

PremiumIncreasesKowalski

Of equal importance, unlike prior studies which simply compared pre-Obamacare premiums in 2013 to actual premiums offered on Exchanges in 2014, this new study isolates the causal impact of Obamacare statistically by using trend data in each state to figure out what non-group premiums in 2014 would have been in the absence of Obamacare. Thus, critics could dismiss many other so-called “pre-/post” studies by effectively saying “Well, premiums in the non-group have always gone up by a large amount, so what’s happening under Obamacare is no different.”  Such criticisms cannot be levied at this study. All of the percentage changes shown in the chart below represent the net change attributable to Obamacare after accounting for all the other factors that would have made premiums go up.[1]

Clearly, the adverse impact of Obamacare on non-group premiums varies sizably across states. The law is estimated to result in lower premiums in only 6 states. However, it should be noted that while the author presented premium estimates for California and New Jersey, the data for these two states is incomplete due to anomalous data reporting requirements. Thus, the large estimated premium decline of 37.5% in New Jersey likely would be different were full data available, but there is no way of telling by how much.

What is disturbing is to see premium increases in excess of 35% in 9 states, including some of the nation’s largest states (Florida and Texas). Remember, these are increases above and beyond normal premium trends.  No one can credibly claim that these massive premium increases would have happened anyway since the study was specifically designed to isolate the law’s impacts from all the other factors that have driven up premiums in recent years.

Taxpayers Will Pay About 24% More for Exchange Subsidies Due to Obamacare-induced Premium Increases

Of course, Obamacare enthusiasts will argue that I’m ignoring all the subsidies provided to Exchange members. It’s certainly true that for those lucky enough to qualify for such subsidies, the typical size of a subsidy in any given state would have been sufficient to protect such individuals from the premium increases shown in the chart above.  But that ignores the fact that out of an estimated 13.2 million people covered in the non-group market in second quarter 2014 (Kowalski’s estimate), only about 7 million qualified for subsidies.[2]  Thus, there were 6.2 million in the non-group market who had to absorb these premium increases without the benefit of any help from Uncle Sam.

Moreover, the fact that federal taxpayers were handed the privilege of having to offset such premium increases using their hard-earned tax dollars should in no way obscure the reality that Obamacare caused premiums to rise in the first place. Higher premiums are not what was promised when the law was enacted. Of equal importance, such subsidies represent a transfer that does not improve the welfare of the nation as a whole. A dollar given to an Exchange member to offset these higher premiums is simply a dollar taken out of the pocket of another American taxpayer. Indeed, had premiums not risen in the first place, the amount of subsidies required on the Exchanges could have been roughly 24% lower.  Increasing the tab that taxpayers had to pay for such subsidies by roughly one fourth certainly in no way increased the nation’s welfare.

In short, it is harder and harder for champions of Obamacare to ignore the plain truth that this misguided law has increased premiums in the non-group market, a burden borne by millions who have to buy coverage in that market without the benefit of taxpayer subsidies and by the taxpayers who must bankroll subsidies for those who qualify.  As I’ve demonstrated repeatedly, this law creates many more losers than winners. The many millions in the non-group market who are having to pay higher premiums due to Obamacare are just one slice of a much larger pool of losers. But until this increasingly incontestable reality are acknowledged by the law’s supporters there is no prospect of changing a law that continues (quite sensibly) to be opposed by the majority of Americans.

obama

DCG

Are energy drinks safe?

We all have pet peeves.

One of my pet peeves are those TV commercials for 5-hour Energy Drinks telling brainwashing women that buying those drinks is the way to help “fight” breast cancer. The Avon Foundation for Women even has the unmitigated gall to call it a “crusade.”

5-hour energy drink

Every time I see the commercial, I think to myself:

Just wait till some scientist tells us that imbibing those 5-hour Energy Drinks actually causes breast cancer.

That really isn’t so far-fetched a notion.

Researchers already have discovered that energy drinks, which are loaded with caffeine, actually change the way the heart beats and, thus, can increase the risk of potentially fatal heart rhythm problems.

Anna Hodgekiss reports for Daily Mail that research found that even healthy adults who consumed the drinks had significantly increased heart contraction rates one hour later. This means that the chamber of the heart that pumps blood around the body – the left ventricle – is contracting harder even an hour after the energy drink.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The German researchers examined the effect of drinks high in caffeine and taurine – such as Red Bull and other energy drinks – on 18 healthy adults with an average age of 27.5 years. Each of the volunteers underwent MRI scan of the heart before and one hour after consuming an energy drink containing taurine (400 mg/100 ml) and caffeine (32 mg/100 ml).

After the drink, these people had “significantly increased peak strain” and contractility in the left ventricle of the heart that receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta, which distributes it throughout the rest of the body.

Dr. Jonas Dörner of the cardiovascular imaging section at the University of Bonn, Germany said, “Until now, we haven’t known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart. Usually they contain taurine and caffeine as their main pharmacological ingredients and the amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death. We don’t know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance. We need additional studies to understand this mechanism and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts.”

Dr. Dörner said that while long-term risks to the heart from drinking energy drinks remain unknown, children, as well as people with known heart rhythm problems (cardiac arrhythmia), should avoid energy drinks, because changes in contractility could trigger arrhythmias.

He added that alcohol can increase heart rate, mixing energy drinks with it could compound the problem. “There are concerns about the products’ potential adverse side effects on heart function, especially in adolescents and young adults, but there is little or no regulation of energy drink sales.”

In the case of 5-Hour Energy Drinks, Forbes reports they are so ubiquitous in the United States that they account for a whopping 90% of the national energy drink market.

According to an article by Barry Meier in The New York Times, 5-hour Energy has been cited in reports of 11 deaths; that is, 11 people who died had ingested 5-hour Energy drink at some time prior to their passing. The first death was reported on December 17, 2009. Non-fatal reports of 5-hour Energy Drink go back to 2005 and include typical symptoms such as dizziness, anxiety, and nausea all the way to seizures, brain hemorrhages, and heart attacks.

Two other brands of energy drinks are also reported to be dangerous:

  • Monster drinks were listed in five deaths and about 35 other non-fatal adverse reactions.
  • Rockstar was listed in 13 cases, none of which were deaths.

So what exactly are the ingredients of these “energy” drinks?

1. High levels of caffeine: Caffeine is a drug, capable of providing us with mental alertness but at higher doses can make us anxious, shaky, and have gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea. Monster and Rockstar contain 160 to 175 milligrams of caffeine in drink sizes ranging from 5 to 16 fluid ounces. That’s about 3-to-5 times the amount of caffeine in 12-ounce serving of a typical mass-marketed soda. The more concentrated 5-hour Energy doesn’t list its caffeine content but Consumer Reports determined that it contains 215 milligrams of caffeine per 2 fl. oz. bottle.

Another consideration relates to what else is being taken by people drinking any high-caffeine product. An increasing concern among neuroscientists is that caffeine seems to increase the lethality of drugs like ecstasy (X, MDMA), amphetamine, and methamphetamine in rats given caffeine doses in the range of human consumption (reviewed here). This is a concern because energy drinks are primarily targeted toward teens and young adults who are more likely than older adults to use illicit drug.

2. Vitamins: with some vitamins far exceeding recommended daily values.

3. Amino acids: Most troubling is phenylalanine, an amino acid that cannot be adequately broken down by people with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria. This is why you’ll see diet sodas containing the artificial sweetener aspartame listed with a warning for phenylketonurics: aspartame contains phenylalanine. In such individuals, the amino acid gets converted instead to a chemical that can cause seizures, and even mental retardation in developing infants and children. Phenylketonuria is rather common in the US, occurring in 1 out of 15,000 people but is 3-to-5 times more common in Turkey and Scotland.

The bottom line:

Ask yourself why you’d want to drink these so-called “energy” drinks. Are you trying to stay awake while working or studying late or driving long hours? Take some time to get some sleep instead of exposing yourself to high caffeine levels and God knows what else.

If you absolutely must have “energy” drinks, be sure you talk with your doctor or pharmacist to learn if your health status and/or medications might interact negatively with very high doses of caffeine.

~Eowyn

Both CDC and U.S. Army say Ebola can be transmitted by air

From the beginning of the Ebola epidemic last spring in West Africa, the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had insisted that the deadly viral hemorrhagic fever (in the infection’s horrific end stage, the victim bleeds from every orifice) can only be transmitted via direct contact with a victim’s bodily fluids — blood, vomit, urine, feces, sweat, nasal discharge, or semen.

This, despite a Canadian research in 2012 which found the Ebola virus to be transmitted by air between one animal species (pigs) and another (monkeys).

On Oct. 2, 2014, however, the CDC changed their minds.

For the first time, the CDC, in the person of its director Tom Frieden, cryptically admitted that, “in theory,” a sneeze or cough “could” spread the virus from someone experiencing Ebola symptoms. Frieden did not explain what “in theory” means. (See “CDC now admits ‘in theory’ Ebola can be transmitted by air“)

Imagine my surprise when, on the tip of a reader of this blog, I discovered that the United States Army had known about this all along, since 2011 — that the Ebola virus can be transmitted by air, albeit in “rare” instances.

Army Ebola

On pages 116-117 of Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook (7th Edition), published by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Sept. 2011, is said:

“Lassa, CCHF, Ebola and Marburg viruses may be particularly prone to nosocomial spread due to periods of high viremia corresponding with bleeding propensity. In several instances, secondary infections among contacts and medical personnel without direct bodily fluid exposure have been documented. These instances have prompted concern of a rare phenomenon of aerosol transmission of infection.”

Here’s a screenshot I took of the passage:

Army Ebola pp. 116-117

Note that:

  • The word “nosocomial” is defined as “Originating or taking place in a hospital, acquired in a hospital, especially in reference to an infection.”
  • The word “viremia” is defined as “The presence of a virus in the blood.”
  • In the passage above, “high viremia” simply means the presence of a lot of Ebola viruses in the blood.
  • The word “aerosol” means “A fine spray or mist.”

Translated into simpler English, the passage from the U.S. Army medical handbook should read:

The Ebola virus may be particularly prone to spread in a hospital environment where Ebola patients with a lot of the virus in their blood are bleeding profusely. “Several” instances of Ebola infections had resulted among contacts and medical personnel without direct bodily fluid exposure. These “rare” instances have prompted concern that Ebola can be transmitted via a fine spray or mist.

Translated into even simpler English, that means you can catch Ebola from inhaling microscopic particles of the blood or vomit or sneeze or cough spewed into the air by someone who is very sick with Ebola, even if you think you were following the CDC guidelines by making no bodily contact with the bodily fluids of the infected.

Read the Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook for yourself, here.

Do you feel safer now? /sarc

H/t FOTM’s CSM

~Eowyn

That’s rich: After hiring Ebola crisis actors, NYT decries Ebola conspiracy theories

The august New York Times used paid “crisis actors” in its video report on the Ebola epidemic from Liberia — and, in so doing, feeds conspiracy theories about Ebola. But the paper has the audacity (Obama’s favorite word) to publish an article decrying Ebola conspiracy theories.

Beginning at the 8:08 mark in the video above, you’ll see the New York Times‘ video report of a young man wearing a neon-green t-shirt supposedly sick with Ebola, who flung himself to the ground outside a health clinic. Note that he displays none of the symptoms of Ebola: no sweat, no vomit, no diarrhea.

Most damning is the fact that, beg. at the 12:42 mark in the video, as he was walking away from the camera, the young man’s father stuffed a handful of cash into his back pocket.

Ebola cash

My post on this, “Is Ebola pandemic a false flag?,” also dealt with CNN similarly resorting to crisis actors in its reporting on Ebola. Ask yourself this question:

Why would NYT and CNN hire Liberians to PRETEND they’re deathly ill with Ebola? 

See also these other fake reportings by CNN at Sandy Hook and the Gulf War.

Below is Alan Feuer’s hypocritical New York Times article of Oct. 18, 2014, on Ebola conspiracy theories.

~Eowyn

do as i say

The Ebola Conspiracy Theories

The spread of Ebola from western Africa to suburban Texas has brought with it another strain of contagion: conspiracy theories.

The outbreak began in September, when The Daily Observer, a Liberian newspaper, published an article alleging that the virus was not what it seemed — a medical disaster — but rather a bioweapon designed by the United States military to depopulate the planet. Not long after, accusations appeared online contending that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had patented the virus and was poised to make a fortune from a new vaccine it had created with the pharmaceutical industry. There were even reports that the New World Order, that classic conspiracy bugbear involving global elites, had engineered Ebola in order to impose quarantines, travel bans and eventually martial law.

While most of these theories have so far lingered on the fringes of the Internet, a few stubborn cases have crept into the mainstream. In the last few weeks, conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have floated the idea that President Obama had sent aid to Africa, risking American lives, because of his guilt over slavery and colonialism. And just days ago, the hip-hop artist Chris Brown took to Twitter, announcing to his 13 million followers: “I don’t know … but I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control.”

Conspiracy theories have always moved in tandem with the news, offering shadow explanations for distressing or perplexing events. Though typically dismissed as a destructive mix of mendacity and nonsense, they often reflect societal fears.

“Conspiracy theories don’t have to be true to tell us something about ourselves,” said Michael Barkun, a professor emeritus of political science at Syracuse University and the author of “Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America.” “They’re not effective as accurate accounts — they’re effective as expressions of anxiety.”

The notion, for example, that health officials are conspiring with Big Pharma to consciously spread — and then cure — Ebola as a profit-making venture might sound like the plot to a cheesy summer thriller, but in fact it touches on a genuine aspect of our health care system, said Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and the author of “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.”

“The truth is that we do rely on private corporations to develop and produce our pharmaceuticals,” he said. “While we may not like that fact, it’s not so hard or paranoid to imagine private companies acting in their own best interests.”

The theory works, Professor Fenster added, because it is “truthy,” to borrow from the comedian Stephen Colbert. Which is to say, it has just enough veracity “that it rings true when carried to Ebola,” he said.

It’s not surprising that populist and anti-government conspiracies are rampant at a moment when opinion polls suggest that our trust in government has reached a record low. In fact, most theories pit those who perceive themselves as powerless against a dominant cabal of secretive elites.

That model certainly seems to fit the allegation that the Department of Defense created Ebola in a military lab to loose on the world as a Malthusian device to reduce the population. “Conspiracies against the powerless tend to be effective because the masses often feel that way,” James F. Broderick, an English professor at New Jersey City University and co-author of “Web of Conspiracy: A Guide to Conspiracy Theory Sites on the Internet,” said. “They reflect and reinforce the idea that ordinary citizens are victims of the government.”

Viral outbreaks, as a genre, have long attracted conspiracy theorists, beginning in medieval times when the Jewish leaders of Toledo, Spain, were blamed for having spread the Black Plague. More recently, the AIDS epidemic was also said to have been caused by a government plot.

The Ebola virus, experts say, is classic conspiracy theory fodder: a silent killer that penetrates the body undetected and lies dormant for weeks. Its sources are obscure, its symptoms horrific.

“Diseases in particular are suited to conspiracy because they are invisible and invisibly transmitted,” Professor Barkun said. “Our senses can’t tell us exactly how the danger spreads. The theory has an answer for what mystifies and frightens.”

Many conspiracy theorists pride themselves on having inside information, but in the case of Ebola such alleged information, or misinformation — the government is in on it! — can erode the public trust when it’s needed most.

“If these were just opinions that people spouted off on talk radio or at dinner parties, you could argue that there wasn’t much harm,” Professor Broderick said. “But to have the C.D.C. debased in public as a puppet of the New World Order or of major corporations is obviously a dangerous proposition.”

 Nonetheless, some scholars find value in conspiracy theories because they allow us to vent and give voice to hidden fears.

“I view these things as a way of framing the world, of offering us narratives,” Professor Fenster said. “And they’re not necessarily a bad thing. Conspiracy theories are something that’s available in American discourse as a way of telling stories, as a way of explaining who we are.”