A new case of Ebola has been diagnosed in Dallas, Texas, and apparently the man in question did not arrive in a biohazard suit on a plane direct from Western Africa.
Many of us are glancing out the window to see if the sky might indeed be falling. If you are not close to a window, from where I sit, it’s not.
Now, Ebola is one of the most terrifying infectious diseases ever to grace a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning.
Ebola is indeed a nasty one, but I would happily take my chances with Ebola over cancer, a major heart attack, or even a badly broken heart (the kind that makes you wish you were dead).
In the United States, we are darn good at supportive care. But you have to be exposed to the disease to even have the possibility of trying out said supportive care at the local ICU. And that is distinctly unlikely.
A little light virology (study of viruses) would be helpful for many people. Ebola is a pretty easy-to-kill RNA virus. A good drying out is enough to kill it. Clorox wipes, Lysol spray and probably Mr. Bubbles can all easily overcome this fragile virus.
It does not fly through the air or otherwise do anything really scary. If you touched some wet secretion from a badly infected Ebola patient and immediately touched your face (before the secretion dried), you would be at risk – badly at risk. Otherwise, it is about as contagious as Hepatitis A. You have to eat the virus to catch the virus.
But in this country, where indoor plumbing is universal, we put our secretions in the toilet where they belong. Simply using a flush toilet and some hand washing reduces the Ebola risk substantially.
Think about it, when was the last time you came into physical contact with a stranger who was very, very sick? Not something that happens very often in our germaphobic society. We tend to hide our really sick patients in institutions.
And that brings up supportive care. We don’t have any proven treatment specific for Ebola. But we do have the best supportive care in the world. If there is one thing our health care system can do, it’s create an all-out intensive care unit and keep you going against the odds.
In this country, Ebola would likely have a 15-20 percent mortality rate, not the 60-90 percent range in areas without great healthcare.
Like all bogymen, the idea is much scarier than the reality. A little information lights up those shadowy corners, and nothing is under the bed.
If you want to worry, let it motivate you to get a flu shot.
That way you won’t scare yourself into a heart attack when it’s just the flu!
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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