Panic spread across social media last week when Ebola virus disease crossed the U.S. border. Thomas Duncan, the first American victim, was diagnosed on Sept. 28 and died in a Dallas, TX hospital 10 days later. On Oct. 12, news broke that a Dallas nurse had also contracted the virus. The incident ignited fear of an Ebola epidemic in America.
However, the Ebola panic is not warranted. Although over 4,000 people have succumbed to the disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is much smaller.
For those not in the know, Ebola is an acute illness originally transferred to humans from a currently-unknown animal (some believe it was West African fruit bats). Contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, sweat, saliva, semen or vomit, transmits the virus. Gross, right?
Think about how often one comes into contact with someone else’s bodily fluids during the day. Although it isn’t wise to sit in the same room as an Ebola patient, nobody is really at risk until that person sweats profusely all over a surface or vomits everywhere. That sounds ridiculous, but that’s the reality.
“Until a larger population of U.S. citizens show symptoms of Ebola, the risk of contracting the disease is minimal.”
Many people in the U.S. are already struggling with a disease transmitted in a similar manner as Ebola. HIV/AIDS is also transferred by bodily fluids. The only difference is HIV/AIDS doesn’t cause the infected person to exude more bodily fluids, like Ebola does.
This method of transmission is the main reason why the U.S. is at a low risk for an Ebola outbreak. The countries most affected by this recent outbreak have poor infrastructure and health systems, so people are more likely to come into contact with someone else’s bodily fluids than they would in America. In addition, many first-world countries have started screening passengers returning from travel in areas of Africa that are currently struggling to contain Ebola.
And yes, while Duncan recently passed away in a Dallas hospital due to Ebola, one could argue his death was a case of delayed treatment. According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, it’s crucial for Ebola patients to receive treatment as soon as they start showing symptoms. However, Duncan had symptoms four days before his admission to the hospital, which severely hurt his chance of surviving.
While this concern over Ebola is legitimate, and certainly will persist, please keep in mind it isn’t something we need to continuously live in fear of. Until a larger population of U.S. citizens show symptoms of Ebola, the risk of contracting the disease is minimal. Despite what the media portrays, this is not the second coming of the Bubonic Plague.