Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I do not play one on television. I have never desired to be one and this is 100% pure opinion. But regarding Ebola—please make it stop!
Here we go again, only the names have changed. The last time it was SARS, the bird flu and mad cow disease; and now it is Ebola that has travelers, particularly fliers, in a panic. While I hate to downplay the severity of any danger, does it really warrant the hysteria that has been created by the media and to a similar degree some of our governmental agencies? In terms of Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) specifically discuss the risk of a US outbreak.
Is there a danger of Ebola spreading in the U.S.?
Ebola is not spread through casual contact; therefore, the risk of an outbreak in the U.S. is very low.
But how do you avoid Ebola in the first place? The obvious answer is to avoid the countries that are currently experiencing an outbreak. According to the World Health Organization there are three countries identified as having widespread transmission of the disease. In those countries, there have been just over 4,024 deaths based on 8,376. Outside of those countries there have been 23 confirmed cases with 9 deaths, with 20 cases and 8 deaths reported in Nigeria. So we are talking about 4,033 deaths worldwide from the disease this year.
Put this in perspective. In 2012, 10,322 people died in drunk driving accidents in the US according to the NHTSA. The CDC estimates that 20,000-30,000 people die in the US each year due to the Flu. It is estimated that there are 24,000 deaths worldwide each year due to lightning strikes.
Absent traveling to the Ebola hotspots, the risk of contracting the disease, much less dying from it is miniscule. The CDC suggests some tips:
- Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
- Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
- Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
- Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
- After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.
Sounds pretty cut and dried to me. But never let that get in the way of a good headline
I have had a few (not many) clients call asking about it and my advice is the same. At this point, it is not something to be overly concerned about for the average traveler. With simple, common sense precautions, you can essentially eliminate any risk. You would not walk in front of an oncoming train; yet beyond belief, some people do. But we are not dealing with a train death epidemic. And to the media reporting on this “outbreak,” please continue to monitor it, but please do it responsibly and without the hysteria that truly drives your ratings and hurts our business.