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Why You Don’t Need to Be Afraid of Ebola

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Because the Ebola outbreak has killed more than 900 people and spread across national borders West Africa, the World Health Organization recently declared an international emergency. Further, one expert called the disease a “painful, dreadful, merciless virus.” But you really don’t need to be as frightened of the virus as the recent burst of media coverage might have you believe.

The current Ebola outbreak is an international emergency because, for one thing, there is no cure. Also, it’s happening in an area where there aren’t sufficient resources, nor sufficient public education, to keep it contained. This West African region lacks the medical professionals and facilities required to contain such an outbreak, and those who are on the scene are at greater risk for contracting the illness.

Beyond that, because many people in Africa often don’t understand that the virus is spread through exchange of bodily fluids like saliva, sweat and blood, family members and caregivers are unknowingly contracting it while caring for sick loved ones, or preparing the dead for burial. In the United States, on the other hand, the threat of an Ebola outbreak and the chances of contracting the virus are next to zero.

Since it only spreads through bodily fluids and is not shared easily, like the flu, you have almost no chance of contracting it in a public place or on a plane. According to Dr. Robert Black, professor of international health at Johns Hopkins University, “People should not be afraid of casual exposure on a subway or an airplane.”

And here in the U.S., medical professionals and hospitals are trained to contain the virus quickly; they also have abundant resources for treating it. Even if someone did accidentally bring the virus to this country, we are much better equipped to handle the situation with long-standing measures including, immediately isolating all possible patients and ensuring strict infection-control procedures while exposed patients are being cared for.

Every other Ebola threat in the U.S. has been contained in the past. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Congress, “We are confident that a large Ebola outbreak in the United States will not occur.”

The fact is that there are many more diseases that are much harder to contain taking many more lives in Africa every year. AIDS claims the lives of more than a million Africans on an annual basis. Pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea kill hundreds of thousands of children there every year. Here in America, though, you’re better off getting a flu shot than worrying about the Ebola virus.

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