If you’re afraid of Ebola coming to a Florida city near you, calm down

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With Halloween just around the corner, the internet has already been bombarded with images of jokesters in HAZMAT suits or painted to look sickly and hemorrhaging. The captions usually ask, “too soon?”

This, of course, is referring to the deadly Ebola outbreak that is wiping out hordes of people in West Africa. There have been three confirmed cases of the deadly virus in the United States. Three. And they’re all in Texas. Texas. As in, not Florida.

So, obviously this is cause for mass hysteria.

A study conducted by St. Leo University among 1,013 people showed that 46 percent of respondents are at lease somewhat worried that someone they know will contract the virus.

Facepalm.

The mass paranoia has gotten so bad the CDC has a dedicated FAQ section debunking common concerns. Those include a fear of flying and growing calls from paranoid hypochondriacs to stop flights to and from West Africa all together.

Headlines from across the U.S. have documented this strange and unwarranted fear that somehow three isolated cases of Ebola in one Texas hospital clearly means we’re destined for a nationwide epidemic.

Syracuse University uninvited an esteemed Pulitzer Prize winning photo journalist who was supposed to speak on campus because he had returned from Liberia three weeks before the scheduled talk. That’s despite the fact Michel du Cille of The Washington Post had surpassed the 21-day incubation period for the virus.

A teacher in Maine was put on leave for 21-days after returning from a seminar in Dallas. That’s where 3 out of 1.25 million people contracted the virus.

A school district in New Jersey refused to let two elementary students who moved from Rwanda into classes after parents expressed concern. Ebola hasn’t affected Rwanda.

Similarly, Navarro College in Texas refused to admit two Nigerian students citing Ebola as the reason. The World Health Organization, this week, declared that African country Ebola-free.

This list goes on and on.

Now I’m not saying it’s not a worthy cause for due diligence. I don’t want Ebola. I don’t want my kids or my friends to get Ebola or anyone else for that matter. It’s a scary and deadly virus. But people, can we just calm down?

It’s like strapping on a gas mask in Florida because someone in California sneezed. It’s not far off from thinking mosquitos carry AIDS. That photos of people wearing hazmat suits in airports exists is not just sad, it’s laughable.

A friend of mine works for a major airline. According to her, flight attendants are being told to simply wash their hands often. She’s not worried despite being on flights numerous times a week.

So, is it too soon to rock an Ebola-themed costume this Halloween? For the people in West Africa who are still dying from and battling the virus, probably. But for people in the U.S. who don’t have much to worry about, I say mock the $h!t out of them.

For the record, there are four Ebola-themed costumes available online on the first page of Google shopping results for “Ebola costume.” They range in price from $29.98 to $199. Really though, they’re just HAZMAT suits with fancy accessories. Last year’s Breaking Bad costume will probably work just fine.

I think this year I may have to find a way to dress up as a paranoid Ebola fear monger. I’ll take suggestions on how to pull that off now please.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.