As little as some would like to believe it, the Ebola virus should not be the biggest of our worries. The disease has traveled from West Africa to the United States, first in Texas and now reaching New York City. It has also reached other parts of the world outside of the West African region. One person in the United States has died from Ebola, some are currently in treatment and the disease tends to have a very high mortality rate. As of now, a vaccine has not yet been developed for the virus, and those who contract the disease are kept under strict quarantine for a period of 21 days. While these things justify some concern among the masses, Ebola is nowhere near as daunting as many concerned citizens in this country believe it to be.
First of all, what many people choose not to recognize are the numerous other health risks that are much more dangerous than the Ebola virus.
The flu, which seems totally commonplace and harmless when the correct treatment is sought, kills anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 Americans per year, depending on the strains and other factors of the infection during the year. There are vaccines readily available to prevent catching the flu, unlike Ebola, and only 46 percent of Americans choose to get this vaccine or any other types.
I had a gym teacher in high school who chose to take the “tough-guy” approach that he did not need a flu shot. His sentiment is not unique in the United States. In fact, there are so many vaccines easily available from your doctor, such as those for hepatitis, meningitis etc., but more and more often these days, people are choosing not to get them due to stigmas placed on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, as well as a variety of other factors.
How about heart disease and obesity? There are no fancy resources needed to get a vaccine for these types of conditions, and prevention boils down to healthy eating, stress prevention and regular exercise. Over half a million Americans die each year due to heart disease, and yet they are still terrified of contracting Ebola. Obesity rates among Americans continue to soar, especially in children. Some other leading causes of death that rise high above Ebola are accidents, diabetes and self-harm.
Because Ebola is new and foreign (in both its origin and dearth of knowledge), many Americans believe it really is a huge risk. There are countless ways people can diminish their risk of death such as practicing safe sex, eating more fruits and vegetables, using sunscreen and choosing not to smoke cigarettes. However, people continue to make bad decisions in these areas every day, making them more prone to death than Ebola in the United States.
People need to recognize how isolated the cases of Ebola really are. It would be extremely hard for someone in this country to contract Ebola due to our strict sanitary precautions set in place.
Yes, I understand that it is alarming that Ebola has shown up in New York City after only being in states fairly far away from New York. Even though this is true, these cases of Ebola in America have all come from people who visited a West African country or treated Ebola patients who had recently visited a West African country.
For example, Ashoka Mukpo, an NBC cameraman who contracted Ebola while in Liberia, is currently in treatment. The Ebola victim in New York City had recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea. Another case is Nina Pham, a nurse who contracted Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the only American victim who has died, in Dallas, Texas. She is now completely Ebola-free and has even received a hug from President Obama.
Even Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio has assured residents of the city that there is no need for alarm due to Ebola, and that “being on the same subway car or living near a person with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk.” This statement came after it was discovered that a resident of New York contracted Ebola after returning from a trip to West Africa.
I agree that the risk of Ebola exists, but it is not as widespread and pertinent as many people believe. For the risk that does exist, numerous health and government officials are making sure that the necessary precautions are in place. New York and New Jersey have decided to quarantine anyone arriving back in the United States after coming into contact with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Still, this precaution is just as much in place to ease the rampant anxiety about Ebola. There is no evidence suggesting that Ebola can be passed by touching a surface that an Ebola victim has touched after sneezing into their hand.
The only proven routes of transmitting Ebola to another person are through blood, vomit and feces, and to be honest, it is extremely rare that we will ever come into contact with these bodily fluids of others. Many are concerned that the New York City Ebola victim has put others at risk because he visited a bowling alley in Brooklyn, but this possibility is extremely low.
Some people are just more prone to being concerned about diseases, but the health risk from Ebola is really nothing to get worked up about. So many other health risks are much more likely to harm you on a daily basis, risks that Americans think too little about, such as heart disease or skin cancer. If you want to prolong your life a little bit, don’t blabber on about how Ebola is going to kill us all.
—Sarah Sandler ’18 is undeclared.