Ebola is “hard to catch”

I’m in no position to be dispensing medical advice but with that caveat here’s a reality check on Ebola.

The short version is that it’s not about to become epidemic like Spanish flu. It’s just not that contagious.

Should You Be Worried About Ebola? A Helpful Chart.

Declan Butler of Nature explains that catching Ebola is actually rather more difficult than you’d imagine:

Though the strain of Ebola in the current outbreak appears to kill 56% of the people it infects, to become infected in the first place, a person’s mucous membranes, or an area of broken skin, must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, urine, saliva, semen or stools, or materials contaminated with these fluids such as soiled clothing or bed linen. By contrast, respiratory pathogens such as those that cause the common cold or flu are coughed and sneezed into the air and can be contracted just by breathing or touching contaminated surfaces, such as door knobs. A pandemic flu virus can spread around the world in days or weeks and may be unstoppable whereas Ebola only causes sporadic localised outbreaks that can usually be stamped out.

His reassuring conclusion is that is not a global threat and that it is only spreading because the “sheer size of the outbreak is stretching response teams, and also because of local sociocultural factors.” Those of those of us lucky enough to be living in the rich world can take further comfort that “functional health systems should be able to prevent onward spread from any exported cases.”

 

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