Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Is Ebola a serious threat to the average person living in the United States? In a word, no. I know. I know. You’ve been hearing about this virus on the news and there are people in the United States who have it and that all seems very scary.
The thing is, Ebola is actually not very easy to contract. It is only transferred through contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you see blood or bodily fluids and they didn’t come out of your body, don’t touch them. Still, maybe you’re concerned that someone with Ebola sneezed and touched a doorknob or licked the table you’re sitting at or something. Take solace in the fact that Ebola is easily killed through disinfectants and exposure to direct sunlight and that there are no known cases of Ebola being contracted through touching a surface with the virus on it. By all means, wipe things down or use hand sanitizer if that makes you feel better, but before you start panicking about an outbreak, realize that the reason Ebola spreads so quickly in places like Africa is because of the unfortunate health conditions in impoverished areas. Infected people in these areas often don’t have access to health facilities. Those patients who are able to make it to a doctor or hospital are often packed into rooms together with caregivers who do not have adequate protection, and thus contract the disease themselves. Furthermore, the inability to get clean water, health supplies, and other equipment to these areas exacerbates the problem. This is not the case in the United States unless there are protocol breaches, which admittedly have led to the infection of one nurse, but are not common enough to be cause for any real concern.
The thing is, the irony of a country whose citizens subsist on fast food and soda being panicked about any form of health scare is not lost on me. If you want an epidemic to be scared of, I recommend looking at the rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the United States. If you really want to scare yourself, look at the rates of the first two among children. So yes, you can sanitize your hands until they’re raw if that makes you feel more secure, but while you’re panicking about a hard-to-contract virus making its way into your body, consider what you’re actively putting into it.