If you’ve turned on the TV lately at all, you are likely either obsessed with the news coverage on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa--and are contemplating living in a bubble so you'll never have contact with another human being again--or you are so sick of hearing about it that you are finding yourself watching more episodes of "The Kardashians" than ever before, simply to banish thoughts of deadly viruses that wreak havoc on entire villages.
Either way, I’m hoping to relieve some of that Ebola-generated anxiety.
Sure, the media loves to run with these mysterious-infectious-disease-outbreak stories, just like Hollywood likes to make movies about rare, unlikely scenarios that threaten our common sense and increase our fear (“Outbreak,” “28 Days Later,” or “I Am Legend,” anyone?)
But why has Ebola become such a hot topic of terror-provoking media coverage? There are a few potential reasons:
- It’s very foreign to us in the U.S. (thankfully): how many of us actually know someone infected with Ebola?
- It’s potentially fatal: it has an over 50% death rate. Scary.
- It’s gross (at least for many non-health professionals): who wants to think about bleeding out of every orifice?
The media needs to sell, and Ebola sounds like a perfect storyline. But as my colleague, Everyday Einstein, covered in his podcast about the science of (and studies on) Ebola, the "facts" reported by the media aren't always clear, or correct.
So before you dash to the nearest hospital the next time you run a fever, let’s find out what it really is, how it’s contracted, and understand the reality of such a disease spreading in the U.S.