OK, Ebola is here. So now is it time to panic?

With headlines like these:1280px-Ebola_virus_virion

There has been a resurgence of fright over the Ebola epidemic on social media.  So, is it now time to panic?

Absolutely and unequivocally, NO.

First, please remember than panicking (even through personal social media outlets) does nothing to prevent you or your loved ones from contracting infectious diseases.  Instead it can incite unnecessary stress and anxiety (not good for your general health or you immune system, by the way).

Second, know that Ebola is not as easily transmitted as other infectious diseases such as influenza and measles.  Even though we are all susceptible because there is no vaccine, the likelyhood of a world-wide Ebola pandemic is extremely low. Consider this, Thomas Eric Duncan, the man fighting for his life with Ebola viral disease in Texas came in contact with approximately 50 people upon his arrival in the U.S.  Nine of the 50 individuals have been deemed “high risk” for exposure, all of whom have been quarantined.  So far, none of them, 0/50 in nearly 2 weeks, have any symptoms of infection.  Of course there is a wide range of incubation times for Ebola (that is, the time before symptoms appear), ranging from 1-3 weeks, so we’ll have to be patient to know for sure that others aren’t infected.  Further, Ebola is not transmitted from person-to-person until symptoms appear, so even if any of these at-risk individuals develop Ebola viral disease, their quarantine ensures that no one else will have been infected.

As part of a global initiative to smolder the outbreak in Africa, many heroic Americans have risked their lives to help, including 2 Yale students who went to Liberia to set up a computer monitoring system to track Ebola cases.  These students returned to the U.S. yesterday and have volunteered for a 21 day quarantine.  I applaud their decision to keep the Yale and New Haven community safe, but I wouldn’t freak out if they returned to class either.

So please don’t panic.  Wash your hands regularly and use alcohol-based antibiotic gels to your heart’s content.  And remember, always ask your partner or blood brother-to-be if he/she has recently been to Africa, directly exposed to Ebola patients, and has a fever before you swap bodily fluids.  Be safe.


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