As various and sundry science writers and policy wonks, including my friends at CauseScience, have noted time and again over these last few weeks, much of the coverage of Ebola has been alarmist, politicized, and, as news anchor Shepard Smith accused recently, terrifically irresponsible. Since the Ebola virus entered the United States, the hype machine has become even more gluttonous, feeding upon people with limited understanding of the finer points virology and epidemiology, encouraging panic where no panic should b e. It’s gotten to the point where I can rarely bring myself to read news coverage on the virus’s progress (and on the progress of the CDC’s interventions).

The New Yorker this week offers a breath of fresh air amidst all the fear-mongering and political gamesmanship. This long but excellent article from Richard Preston, “Inside the Ebola Wars,” explores the chronology of the Ebola epidemic and poignantly details its human consequences; it also offers one of the best explanations I’ve seen thus far of the science of infection, genetic monitoring, and vaccine development. Preston, who also authored The Hot Zone – a thorough chronicling of Ebola’s discovery and spread on the African continent – writes with scientific clarity and with empathy for the human cost of the epidemic. If you want to understand what’s going on in Africa and how Ebola works, this article is essential reading.

Is it neuroscience-related? No. But it’s certainly a bit of science and the natural world that’s profoundly affecting global society at present, so if you have some time, it’s worth a read.

Please feel free to post in the comments or on Facebook if there are any aspects of the science Preston covers that you’d like explained in more detail or at a slightly different level.