With the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the recent documentation of the first case in the United States, there has recently been a sweep of fear across the nation over the possibility of contracting the virus. There have been waves of extreme actions taken to prevent contraction- actions which, if looking at this logically, we would realize are groundless and absurd. For example, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, parents recently kept their children home from school after they became privy to the fact that the principal had taken a trip to south Africa. At Syracuse University, a similar situation occurred in that a winning photojournalist who was slated to speak on the public health crisis at the University was forbidden to do so as he had recently been working in Liberia. In Oregon, a high school canceled a visit from 9 students from Africa, despite these 9 students not coming from countries anywhere near where the virus had broken out. In Brecksville, Ohio, an office building, at which just under 1,000 employees worked, shut down under the pretense that there was a slight chance one of their employees may have been exposed to ebola.
Suddenly, the Nation has worked itself into a frenzy over a threat that, all things considered, is next to none. While the federal government is taking every precaution to ensure that the disease does not spread in the United States, an effort which is being headed by the newly appointed “Ebola Czar,” it is important to keep in mind that the number of confirmed Ebola cases in the United States is only three. Moreover, these cases all stem from the case of Thomas Duncan, a man who had travelled to Liberia and was treated in a hospital in Dallas until he passed away on October 8th. The only other CDC-confirmed cases in the United States were two nurses who treated Duncan during his stay at the hospital.
In all reality, the chances of contracting Ebola in the United States are virtually non-existent. However, given how deadly and horrific the symptoms of the virus can be, it is understandable that people abandon rationale, begin to panic, and thus, act irrationally as an instinctual response. According to Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at the University of California at Irvine, these types of wide-spread panics over the highly unlikely are not uncommon. “There are documented cases of people misunderstanding and fearing infectious diseases going back through history,” he says. “Stigmatization is an old game.” Similar to the introduction of polio and HIV/AIDS in the United States, people are afraid of the unknown.
What people really need to do is face the facts, educate themselves on the virus, and understand how difficult it is to contract so that they don’t end up wasting time and energy on unnecessary measures To read more about Ebola and why you need not be worried about contracting it, check out this article.