The recent panic headlines over the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and subsequent exposure to people in the U.S. have many news outlets sputtering in panic.  But it needs to be kept in perspective.

Ebola is a deadly  virus that produces internal and external bleeding intestinal and kidney failure, and can be fatal in up to 90% of cases, if left completely untreated.    There have been several outbreaks since it was first detected in Africa in 1976.   However, as one British journalist pointed out, there's a far deadlier virus out there - right under our noses.  From a great piece written in August by James Ball of The Guardian Newspaper:

"A deadly disease is set to hit the shores of the US, UK and much of the rest of the northern hemisphere in the coming months. It will swamp our hospitals, lay millions low and by this time next year between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide will be dead, thousands of them in the US and Britain.

Despite the best efforts of the medical profession, there’s no reliable cure, and no available vaccine offers effective protection for longer than a few months at a time.

If you’ve been paying attention to recent, terrifying headlines, you may assume the illness is the Ebola virus. Instead, the above description refers to seasonal flu – not swine or bird flu, but regular garden variety influenza."  (Bold lettering added for emphasis). 

Ball points out that media hysteria has not helped produce intelligent discussion of the disease.   Some media outlets have mistakenly reported Ebola deaths, because the illness is difficult to distinguish from malaria and other such viruses.

However,  in it's current state, it's transmitted directly by contact or body fluid transfer between infected animals, bats, monkeys or humans and others.   Ball points out that since this current outbreak began in March,  over 300,000 people in Africa have died from tuberculosis (TB)  and nearly that many from malaria worldwide.

Ball accurately points out:

"The most real effect for millions of people reading about Ebola will be fear and stigma. During the Sars outbreak of 2003, Asian-Americans became the targets of just that, with public health hotlines inundated with calls from Americans worried about “buying Asian merchandise”, “living near Asians”, “going to school with Asians”, and more.

Similarly, during the H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak, which had almost identical spread and mortality to seasonal flu, patients reported extreme fear, prompted largely by the hysterical coverage."  (Bold lettering added for emphasis).

So, the best thing to do is wade past the hysteria and focus on the facts and information.