Oct 20, 2014
Stop panicking about a major Ebola outbreak in the United States – you’re in very good hands.
While the world watched in horror as the worst Ebola outbreak on record claimed the lives of over 4,500 people in West Africa, many Americans began to worry – what if this deadly disease spreads stateside? Unfortunately, those fears turned into reality on Thursday, September 25th, 2014, as the first case of Ebola in the U.S. was diagnosed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Just over three weeks later, two confirmed Ebola transmissions on U.S. soil (both to nurses working directly with the initial victim) have caused an uproar of irrational panic among many U.S. citizens. According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, roughly 40% of U.S. Americans believe there will be a large Ebola outbreak inside the U.S. within the next 12 months. And considering that study was conducted in August, before the first case of Ebola made its way to the U.S., it’s safe to assume that percentage has only increased.
Although the likelihood of additional Ebola cases in the U.S. is “a very real possibility,” there is a disproportionate correlation between the level of fear among U.S. citizens and the level of damage realistically plausible. Frankly, the potential damage does not warrant the extent of widespread paranoia currently tormenting a large portion of the U.S. population.
Being concerned that the disease is stateside is certainly justifiable, especially after seeing Ebola disseminate through West Africa at an alarming rate. But all prejudices aside, healthcare in the United States is a different story than healthcare in West Africa. The fight against Ebola in West Africa is tragically undermanned and underfinanced, often dependent on invaluable assistance and charitable contributions from other countries, organizations, and individuals. On the other hand, the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States and other developed countries is much lower due in large part to an abundance of superior resources and amenities.
Photo by Mercola
The first Ebola case in the U.S. may have come as a surprise to many, but not to the healthcare industry. They knew Ebola spreading to the states was not out of the realm of possibility – in fact, they expected it. For months now, hospitals nationwide have been preparing for the disease’s first appearance in order to properly prevent any outbreak from spreading in the community. They have even willingly brought back five individuals who had contracted the disease in West Africa and treated each successfully, without infecting others.
Let’s discuss a few of the more common Ebola myths and separate the facts from fears:
Fear: Ebola is currently the most dangerous disease on the planet.
Fact: There are many other diseases that are much more dangerous and cause much more harm than Ebola. Ebola is spreading at rapid pace and the outbreak in West Africa is far from over, but at the moment, Ebola has contributed to far fewer deaths than many other common diseases. Take a look at the number of deaths worldwide caused by various diseases:
- Respiratory Infections: 3,100,000*
- HIV/AIDS: 1,500,000*
- Diarrhoeal diseases: 1,500,000*
- Tuberculosis: 900,000*
- Ebola: 6,103
If that’s not enough to help put it in perspective, consider this: the numbers listed for the first four diseases are the death tolls from 2012 alone, while the number listed for Ebola represents the total amount of deaths ever caused by Ebola.
Fear: An Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is inevitable and unstoppable.
Fact: False, and false again. In fact, an Ebola outbreak on U.S. soil is highly unlikely, but if one were to occur, it is controllable. Throughout history, there have been multiple Ebola outbreaks, all of which were contained. It should be noted that the current West Africa outbreak is far and away the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record and is proving to be much harder to control. That having been said, the possibility of the West Africa outbreak leading to a worldwide epidemic is unrealistic.
Fear: Ebola is an airborne disease that can be contracted easily.
Fact: Ebola is not an airborne disease. You cannot contract the virus by simply breathing it in, drinking contaminated water, touching a doorknob, eating an apple, etc. Ebola can only spread when the bodily fluids of an infected person comes into contact with your mouth, eyes, ears, genital area, or an open wound. In reality, Ebola is much harder to catch than other transmissible diseases. While it is possible to obtain the virus through casual contact (coughing, sneezing, etc.), this type of exposure is typically not enough for you to contract the disease.
Fear: Once someone contracts Ebola, it never goes away.
Fact: While there is no single proven cure or FDA-approved treatment for the disease, that does not mean an infected person will always carry the virus. Many people have been known to recover from Ebola and rid themselves of the virus and its symptoms.
Fear: Once someone contracts the virus, they can spread it to others immediately.
Fact: The Ebola virus only spreads from victims who are experiencing the symptoms – not when they are initially infected. The incubation period (time from being infected to developing symptoms) for Ebola is anywhere from 2 to 21 days. Furthermore, you are not at risk of contracting the virus from individuals who have fully recovered from Ebola.
Fear: Ebola is practically a death sentence.
Fact: The average mortality rate for Ebola is closer to 50%, much lower than the 90% rate that is often inaccurately reported. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has recently been reported to be closer to 70% mortality rate.
Fear: People who are infected with the virus in West Africa can easily travel back to the United States and spread the disease.
Fact: Very strict preemptive measures are in place to prohibit this from happening. Anyone who wishes to leave West Africa is subjected to heavy screening and often kept in isolation until it is determined they are free of any symptoms.
In his weekly video address, President Obama encouraged the public to keep things in perspective in regards to Ebola in the United States. The President had this to say:
“What we’re seeing now is not an ‘outbreak’ or an ‘epidemic’ of Ebola in America. This is a serious disease, but we can’t give in to hysteria or fear.”
In other words, yes, Ebola is here and precautionary measures should be taken, but do not blindly succumb to the irrational notion that we are on the brink of a deadly epidemic that will wipe out half of the United States population.
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