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Ebola has been all over the news lately, which can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. Ebola isn’t easy to get. It’s not airborne. You can’t catch Ebola from a sneeze or a cough the way you can the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can only get Ebola if you have cared for someone who has it, handled someone who has died of Ebola, come in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected persona or objects contaminated with the virus, or by contact with diseased primates or fruit bats.
Having an organization like the CDC that can track and quickly deal with infectious diseases when they arise is just one of the several advantages the United States has over West African nations dealing with Ebola. Amenities like access to clean water and soap, lack of close contact with wild and diseased animals, and quality of the U.S. health care system are also likely to prevent the spread of disease in the United States, especially to the population at large.
Eight of the people that have been diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. have been declared disease free and are currently back with their families at home. The two persons to die of the disease in the United States were a Liberian national visiting relatives and a doctor who worked as a general surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown. Neither one of these cases originated on US soil.
Lax medical procedures have played a role in Ebola epidemics in West Africa, including reusing syringes rinsed in the same pan of water and reusing contaminated blood bank equipment. Family members burying the dead often do not have easy access to soap, water and bleach. The US health care system is better equipped to handle the disease than the health care systems in less developed countries like West Africa.
The media can learn from their errors in promoting the panic involved in Cleveland and Texas. We certainly don’t wish to minimize the disease or its seriousness, but Nurse Amber Vinson was not deliberately putting the public at risk when she flew back to Cleveland to visit family and plan her wedding. She had no symptoms and was cleared by the CDC to fly. If a person with Ebola does not yet show symptoms he cannot transmit the virus. No one else that she came in contact with during that time has developed the disease, and thanks to the quick acting and comprehensive medical care she received, Vinson and her co-worker Nina Pham are fully recovered and show no signs of Ebola.
As always, when it comes to your health, simply use common sense:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Use alcohol or bleach-based cleaners on surfaces
- Don’t panic about Ebola, you’re more likely to catch a cold or the flu