Thursday morning, the National Institutes of Heath Clinical Center in Bethesda announced it has admitted Nina Pham, the first of two nurses who contracted Ebola from the Texas case. Pham was diagnosed with Ebola on Sunday, October 12. The questions many in Maryland have now are these: Is there any reason to be concerned? Why was an Ebola patient brought here?
The Truth and the Hype
Let’s be clear: there’s a lot of fear out there. News sources certainly aren’t helping by reporting on only the most outrageous stories. Your facebook feed is likely overwhelmed with people sharing disturbing status updates such as reports of CDC failures, government cover-ups, infected people on flights, and images designed to show infection theoretically spreading across the U.S. Many people feel a very natural fear reaction to things like this, and wonder why more isn’t being done.
The truth, though, is that Ebola, while frightening, does not represent a serious threat to anyone in the United States. Statistically speaking, you are thousands of times more likely to die from the flu than from Ebola. It’s important to hang on to the truth when there’s so much attention on this infection, making it feel urgent and immediate.
Here are some things to know about the Ebola virus which might help you feel a little more at ease:
1. Ebola is not very contagious. Unlike diseases such as smallpox and measles, Ebola has a much lower ability to spread. This means isolation can cut short an outbreak easily.
2. The NIH in Maryland is one of the four hospitals in the U.S. with official biocontaminant units and years of preparation in handling highly infectious diseases.
3. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms show.
4. Ebola requires direct contact with bodily fluids to spread to you.
5. While there is no official treatment for Ebola, the United States has used experimental treatments on several patients which have proven successful.
6. The vaccines being used to treat Ebola patients are developed in Maryland centers.
Finally, Fox News personality Shepard Smith injected a strong dose of reality into the conversation in this piece, which quickly went viral:
The NIH released a statement Thursday, saying, “The NIH Clinical Center’s Special Clinical Studies Unit is specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists. The unit staff is trained in strict infection control practices optimized to prevent spread of potentially transmissible agents such as Ebola. … NIH is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of NIH patients, staff, and the public.”
What this means is that we are safer by having Pham kept here. It reduces the chance that yet another worker might get the disease and thus spread it even more. Remember, fear is more contagious than Ebola.