Ebola will come to Baltimore, if it isn't here already ("Potential Ebola patient transferred to Baltimore hospital tests negative for virus," Oct. 28).

Why? Because we're a center of trade and a world leader in health care. Of these things we should be proud. We should also expect to show some measure of the courage demonstrated by the staff of the great institutions that constitute America's front line against this disease: Johns Hopkins Hospital and its medical school, the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Maryland Medical Center.


That's why we almost surely will see this disease in an up-close-and-personal way that most communities in this country need not worry about. And when this happens, it will be absolutely vital that each of us steps up to the plate and does our job.

"Keep calm and carry on," the phrase made famous by a 1939 British World War II poster, is a message we should all take to heart. This means every doctor and every nurse, but also every orderly and sanitation worker, every flight attendant, baggage handler, front-desk clerk, hotel maid, taxi driver, waitress and busboy — every single one of us who participates in the endless chain of human interaction that makes our city function. All of us have jobs to do and it is vital that we continue to do them.

Our returning health care workers are heroes — nothing less than foot soldiers in a war against a dangerous enemy. Would we refuse service to a returning solder of the Afghan war on the grounds that he or she has likely suffered trauma that could lead to erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior? No, we would not.

On the contrary, we would be honored to have them in the car or in our hotel or at our dinner table regardless of the risks because we choose to accept risks all the time that present clear and quantifiable hazards to ourselves but that we view as insignificant compared to the benefit or rightness of the activity.

What scares us is the unknown, and we regard Ebola as the unknown. However, that gets less true by the day. Ebola kills people by the thousands if left untreated in an environment of poverty, overcrowding and lack of sanitation and education. Ebola's score against Western medicine, however, is currently 1-8 in our favor, and we could have made that 0-9 had the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital followed procedures that are now disseminated throughout every hospital in America.

Also known is that no sanitation worker, no front desk employee, no driver nor maid has contracted this disease in a Western nation. Did we close the borders to make that happen? Did we quarantine every returning health care worker? Did we track every traveler from West Africa? No, we did none of that, and we have an Ebola-free population to show for it.

What's the harm of enacting such procedures out of the "abundance of caution" that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked about? I am a small businessman, not an expert in infectious disease, but it should be obvious that the way to attack an enemy is to combat it where it lives, in West Africa. If we don't combat it successfully there, we will never be able to eliminate it here.

We will also be less able to deal with the next, even more fearful epidemic that could at any time come from anywhere in the world, including from our own hospitals.

I'd like to shake the hand of every returning health care worker, epidemiologist and research scientist I can find, and thank them personally for the extraordinary work that they do. I have even greater admiration for those who are, even now, venturing into the belly of the beast, facing not merely the hazards of the disease but the ignorance and fear of their own people upon returning home. We can do something about that last hazard, at least, and we should.

Mark Thistel, Baltimore