Ebola has recently become cause celebre. For all the attention it’s getting, one would expect it will be more common than influenza in a few short months.
Are we on the road to post-apocalyptic ruin and visions of “bring out your dead,” straight out of Monty Python?
To put things in perspective I suggest comparing Ebola to lightening.
Getting hit by lightning has a fatality rate that will certainly give Ebola a run for its money. And Ebola, like lightening, is totally harmless if you are not in the immediate vicinity. Close enough to touch is too close in both cases.
Lightening kills a couple of dozen folks in the U.S each year. So far Ebola has killed none. Common sense will usually save you from lightening – thunderstorms are poor occasions to be climbing towers, flagpoles or standing on mountaintops. It is likewise a poor time for adventurous vacations to Third World countries in western Africa.
And I think you should be about 1/20th as worried about Ebola as you are about lightening, proportionately speaking.
Ebola is probably not coming to get you. We have been studying Ebola for almost 40 years and know quite a lot about it. It is a rather rare and fragile virus. Unlike influenza or MRSA, it doesn’t lie there on stainless steel all dried out and infect you a week later. It will degrade simply with drying. Virtually any common cleaning agent kills this virus.
The mental image people have of Ebola is Fukushima, where the nuclear crisis left the soil and everything contaminated for 100 years. That just isn’t the case.
These viruses don’t crawl, fly, or teleport; they just lay there. They are in dangerous high concentrations only on the fluids leaking from a badly infected person. That means you would have to touch this fluid without gloves and immediately wipe the sweat off your brow or rub your eye.
I don’t think it takes much medical training to know not to touch your face when your hands are dripping with diarrhea or vomit from another person (or yourself for that matter!).
The internet lives on excitement and Ebola is certainly an exciting subject. But rest assured, you have more to fear from global warming than Ebola.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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