Why Ebolamania in North America is only the latest in a apocalyptic trend
In August of this year, a man was quarantined at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and it was all anyone was talking about for the next week. The individual in question was not a celebrity or public figure. He was simply an individual suspected of having the disease that is creating unreasonable panic in North America: the dreaded Ebola virus.
For those who have been living under a particularly soundproof rock, the Ebola outbreak began in late July of this year as the disease began to spread rapidly through West Africa. Since then, cases of the illness have been confirmed in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, according to The Canadian Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CTC). Not a single case has been reported in Canada.
Why, then, is there such intense fear surrounding one man who may have had Ebola? It is due to what the possibility of a case represents.
For the past fourteen years the media has periodically portrayed disease outbreaks as a plague. This was evident during the Severe Acute Repertory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic in 2002 and in the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak in 2009.
These cases show that panic is not warranted because Ebola is more difficult to transmit than either of the previous diseases. According to the CTC both SARS and H1N1 were airborne illnesses. SARS could be transmitted to someone three feet away from the infected individual through water droplets in the person’s breath, in addition to the traditional coughing or sneezing. H1N1was a flu and was transmitted in a similar way.
Ebola, in contrast, is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an individual who is infected–such as blood, urine, feces, saliva, vomit, or sexual fluids. Unlike the previous examples, this requires much greater contact between individuals. Sitting on a bus next to someone with Ebola will most probably not allow you to contract the disease.
Aside from the unlikeliness of contraction, the chances of a random member of the population of Canada dying from such a case is unlikely at best. According to Statistics Canada, 251 individuals died of SARS and 428 of H1N1. Compare these figures with the 7,194 deaths caused by diabetes in 2009, a condition we are publicly calmer about.
These two diseases combined caused less than 10 per cent of the deaths that diabetes did in just one year. Yet where is the round the clock coverage of the sugary menace among us?
Due to increased public awareness of areas of infection and the efficiency of our healthcare system in such matters, the instances of infection within Canada will be very low. It should be noted that all of these diseases are horrible, dangerous, and can be fatal. Anyone who has travelled to regions affected by the Ebola outbreak and is showing symptoms of the disease should seek medical attention immediately.
If not, relax and take a deep breath the next time you hear about the disease that will wipe out the human race; chances are it’s not as dangerous to you as they claim.