Everyone take a deep breath … and relax. The only things more dangerous than Ebola are the false information and panic surrounding the spread of the virus to American soil.
Ebola is a rare and deadly virus that is marked by fever and severe internal bleeding. Recent outbreaks of Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have led to additional cases in Nigeria, Spain, and now, the United States.
In many ways, the recent Ebola fears are similar in nature to the early myths surrounding HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. Ebola is indeed a deadly virus, and care must be taken whenever there is a realistic chance of exposure. However, the 24/7 media exposure has helped create a national panic about the virus and the associated risks. Fear and panic need to be replaced with facts and common sense. For every false alarm or action taken out of misinformation, real world resources are being diverted that could be used in other, more critical situations.
To help sort out the fact from fiction, we leveraged resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and several top research universities to help dispel five prevalent myths about Ebola.
Ebola is a rare and deadly virus that has generated a significant level of fear and panic across the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Myth 1: Mosquitoes and other insects can transmit Ebola
Fact: The Ebola virus is spread when the bodily fluids of an infected person come into contact with the mucous membranes of a non-infected person. That means the Ebola virus in fluids like blood, sweat, or urine has to come in contact with your eyes, mouth, nostrils, ears, genital areas, or an open wound in order to infect you. Mosquitoes are known to spread all sorts of diseases, especially malaria. However, they don’t transmit Ebola. There is simply no evidence to suggest that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit the virus.
Myth 2: Ebola has mutated into an airborne virus
Fact: Despite irresponsible news media reports to the contrary, Ebola has not mutated into an airborne virus and is not spread by air or water. The virus has indeed mutated. Some estimates claim more than 300 different mutations. However, there is no evidence to suggest that an airborne mutation is even remotely likely with this particular type of virus. A more realistic scenario, but still potentially dangerous, would be for an Ebola mutation to occur that allows people who have survived the disease to be re-infected at a later time. Such a mutation could possible make the vaccines currently in the developmental pipeline essentially ineffective.
Myth 3: Ebola is a “hardy” virus that can survive for weeks outside the body
Fact: While Ebola is a deadly and vicious virus inside the human body, many researchers also classify it as a “wimpy” virus outside the body. The virus likes moist, dark places and can be killed by such things as heat and direct sunlight. Ebola can also be killed with hospital grade disinfectants, such as bleach. In ideal conditions, the virus can survive on dry surfaces for several hours and up to several days in bodily secretions (such as blood). However, the likelihood of contracting the virus from touching an exposed surface is very low.
Myth 4: Travel bans and flight restrictions would reduce the spread of Ebola in the United States
Fact: While it may seem logical, there really is no evidence to support the theory that restricting air travel would reduce the spread of Ebola in the United States. Since jet travel became commonplace, many nations have banned flights from other countries in hopes of blocking the entry of certain viruses, including SARS and H1N1 “swine flu.” None of the bans were effective, and the viruses gained entry to populations regardless of what radical measures governments took to keep them out.
Myth 5: Ebola is more of a threat to Americans than the flu