Opinion: React to the facts not fears about Ebola

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As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and and Prevention reported that the total death count by Ebola amounts to 2,413 in Liberia and 1,018 in Guinea.

How many Ebola-related deaths have there been in the U.S.? Just one.

The recent widespread panic revolving around the Ebola virus in the U.S. is one that has been rashly and swiftly blown out of proportion by mainstream media. I wasn’t even aware of what Ebola was until its recent presence in Texas.

Before doing any research, I was already frightened by what I heard on the media. All the news apps on my phone blew up every morning with some fear-provoking information about Ebola in the U.S. I thought we were going to have an “I Am Legend” movie on our hands from what I heard on different media platforms.

What is Ebola?

The CDC defines Ebola as “a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains.” The key word here is, “rare.”

There are five Ebola virus species that have been identified as of today. Only four, that are known, have caused diseases in humans. Humans and other animals can contract the disease, like monkeys and gorillas. Outbreaks have appeared throughout Africa since 1976 when someone first contracted it.

Although this is the largest Ebola epidemic since its discovery, there has been only one death in the U.S. and four reported cases – one of whom has been taken out of isolation. That person is 29-year-old Amber Vinson, a health care worker who was infected with Ebola after working with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first and only victim of Ebola in the U.S.

As of last Tuesday, Vinson has been discharged, leaving only one person in the U.S. infected with Ebola.

How can you get it?

According to an article in CNN, though the virus is extremely infectious, it is not extremely contagious. The only way a person can contract the virus is by coming “in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons,” like an infected person’s urine, saliva, semen or blood.

The CDC said it is not spread through air, water, food or mosquitoes.

The overreaction

Mainstream media was fast to jump on the idea that airplane flights are a prime location for Ebola to spread. The likelihood of flight passengers contracting Ebola, however, is rare. Unless those infected are joining the mile high club, there is no need to incessantly report about the multiple cleaning of aircrafts, leaving the U.S. believing everyone on the flight is infected.

After Vinson was infected with Ebola, she took a flight from Texas to Ohio and back. According to NBC News, Vinson had checked with the CDC to make sure it was okay beforehand and was given approval. All 132 passengers were contacted as well in order to monitor them for signs of the virus, even though it was unlikely they would contract it.

However, this approval did not keep the media from reporting an ungodly amount of coverage on the cleaning process of airplanes after the fact.

It is believed that fruit bats, which are nocturnal, are the most likely host for the virus. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fruit bats can be found in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mariana fruit bats were put on the Guam and U.S. Endangered Species Lists in the ’80s, but were reclassified to threatened status on Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands on Jan. 6, 2005.

Don’t fret

Yes, Ebola is a scary thing. When I first heard about it, I thought “imminent death.” However, the facts prove that Ebola isn’t something we need to be hiding in our homes for; from what the CDC has shared and what recovering patients have shown us.

No one should avoid riding on an airplane. Dogs don’t need to be put down. We shouldn’t have hysterical broadcasters in our ears talking about the virus every single day.

President Barack Obama said it best in an article in CNN.

“We don’t want to discourage our health workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way,” Obama said. “We don’t just react based on our fears … we react based on facts.”

Kelly Iverson is a senior in mass communications.

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