The deluge of Ebola coverage is straight up overwhelming. Various screaming headlines have asked whether we can get Ebola from spit, semen, and even bowling balls—and that's just credentialed media outlets. We can't begin to cover hysterical reactions from relatives. (But thanks for the concern, Mom.) Personally, we're looking forward to a new wave of decorative home goods saying, “Keep Calm and Carry Hand Sanitizer.” So here's our solution to all that noise: We’ve turned to five medical experts and asked, "What’s the one thing we should keep in mind when it comes to Ebola?" Their advice below will make you realize just how silly it is to wear a hazmat suit to the airport.
David L. Katz, M.D.
Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center
The risk of Ebola to any one of us in the U.S., particularly those not involved in hands-on patient care, is less than that of getting struck by lightning or eaten by a shark. With four cases out of a population of over 300 million, it may be less than the risk of the shark eating you [while] being struck by lightning. We massively exaggerate the exotic risks we can least control and massively undervalue the mundane risks we can control.
James Hardeman, M.D.
Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician and Author of Appears Younger Than Stated Age
The chances of contracting Ebola are very low, but here are three things to do to diminish the risk: 1. Use hand purifier after holding [a pole] on the subway. 2. Wash your hands before eating. 3. Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you are in public to prevent self-inoculation. These measures might help with Ebola but also with much more common infections, such as the common cold and influenza.
Marina Gafanovich, M.D.
It is relatively easy to halt the spread [of Ebola]. The problem in West Africa is the countries suffering from outbreaks have weak healthcare systems. [These] countries lack gloves, gowns, face masks, and the essential supplies to protect nurses and doctors.
Carolyn Engelhard, M.P.A.
Director, Health Policy Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine
Ebola is aggressively infectious but not highly contagious. People who are infected with Ebola are likely to get very sick, but it important to remember that it is not easy to become infected. Ebola is not like catching a cold from your co-worker, because the Ebola virus only spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids.
John Mandrola, M.D.
Cardiologist, Louisville Cardiology Group, and columnist for Medscape Cardiology
It’s often forgotten that the human body comes with an amazing system for fighting diseases. It’s called our immune system. And it works best when we are strong, well rested, well fed, and fit. I recall a friend who recently developed a severe infection. He was a triathlete. He ate well. He slept well. The infection nearly killed him, but it didn’t. He survived because his body was strong enough to withstand the weeks of treatment and disease. In the end, his “healthiness” saved him.