Over one-fifth of Americans worried – in the past 24 hours – about getting ebola, according to a just-released Gallup poll. Six Americans are believed to have contracted ebola (a number which may or may not include the man who had ebola in Texas, Thomas Eric Duncan, who passed away this morning), and the risk is effectively non-existent, but almost one-in-seven Americans thinks that is is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that they, or someone in their family, will get ebola.
The Gallup poll wisely compares perceptions of ebola now to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 (also known as the swine flu):
In other words, Americans are as concerned about ebola – a disease that poses no risk to them – as they were about the swine flu, a disease that may have infected over 10% of the American population and that killed 3,900 Americans. (This number, of course, is also only a fraction of the number of Americans that die each year from the “common” flu)
Any disease with a high case fatality rate is going to cause people to worry, and doubly so for a “new” or “foreign” one. But a cool, calm, and collected media apparatus would be able to tamp down fears of ebola if it was interested in doing so. That’s not good for gaining eyeball share, though, so organizations like CNN are sensationalizing the “outbreak” of ebola in America by comparing it to – and yes, this is true (see above) – ISIS, a terrorist group. This is disgusting and immoral in and of itself, but it also takes away mindshare from more pressing concerns, like getting a flu shot.
So no, America, despite what you hear on the radio or the television, ebola is not a threat to you. Do literally anything else but worry. Get a flu shot. Donate to MSF/Doctors Without Borders. Help – in whatever way you can – to reduce the ebola threat to Liberians and others in West Africa.