In the past few weeks, our nation has been subjected to countless reminders about Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Media and American leaders have worked together to develop awareness of the native West African disease, all the while injecting nonmedical citizens with an uneducated, possibly unnecessary fear.
Awareness of the disease and the fear that it has induced have allowed countries to prepare disaster plans and take caution when people exhibit similar symptoms, but it has also created a whole tangle of complications for hospitals and health experts dealing with the disease firsthand.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a recent NPR article, “Urgent health needs are definitely going unmet, especially in countries already suffering death from (Ebola).”
More people have died from non-Ebola related killers, like HIV and malaria, than Ebola itself because patients are avoiding health care centers out of fear of contracting the disease.
“Both HIV and malaria are capable of killing the same number of people every day that Ebola has killed in the last six months, especially if these people are avoiding health care,” Frieden said when asked about the seriousness of this outbreak.
Because of the way the media is portraying Ebola, it is hard for Americans to grasp that it is not the biggest killer, nor will it ever be.
According to the CDC, Ebola is not an airborne disease. It cannot live in the air as influenza or measles viruses can. Humans must come into contact with body fluids from an infected person or their contaminated objects. In order to contract the disease, one would have to directly touch the bodily fluids of an infected person or connect a contaminated object with bodily fluids of their own.
In comparison, the flu, which can live on surface areas such as armrests and seat backs, is much easier to contract than Ebola.
As a result, the fear American and foreign media have instilled into citizens regarding air travel and Ebola is cautionary but exaggerated. Airplanes are given cleanings between each flight and a much heavier cleaning on a daily basis. Both domestic and international airlines have been conducting these cleanings for the last decade, as a prevention to the spread of common diseases such as the flu.
So how does this affect us locally?
Tamara Brooks, a nursing student at Colorado State University-Pueblo agrees that people need to educate themselves about the disease and how it is contracted and spread.
She said, “The likelihood of Colorado citizens contracting Ebola is low. It is definitely a scary disease, but people need to understand that it is preventable. We are lucky enough to live in a country that has the medical equipment and technology to treat it.”
Colorado citizens should not worry about contracting the disease. With a U.S. population of more than 300 million people, the fact that only five cases have been confirmed means that each citizen has a less than 1 percent chance of contracting Ebola.
Seeing a doctor when necessary and being alert to all health issues is important. Ebola is not the most contagious or the most dangerous disease out there.
“Don’t believe everything you hear in the media,” said Brooks. “Take the necessary precautions, but don’t live in fear.”