In the past few weeks, the public and media uproar about the virus has been nothing short of absurd. With minute-by-minute coverage about the virus, rarely has any newsworthy information been disseminated. Instead, fear mongering, unfounded hypotheticals and speculation have began masquerading themselves as new and relevant information to the frenzied “what if” game that this event has turned into.
On Friday, the Patsaouras Transit Plaza in downtown Los Angeles was shut down for 90 minutes because of a feverish rider suspected of having Ebola. The man who recently returned from Nigeria, a non-Ebola infected country, only had a fever.
Southern California hospitals have been forced to reallocate resources in order to address the public’s growing concern over a local Ebola outbreak.
Daniel Uslan, an infectious-disease specialist at UCLA Medical Center, said the average emergency room call has changed due to the fear of Ebola, according to an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“We’re getting paged more from people in urgent care with nausea and vomiting, or a fever,” he told the LA Times. “It’s definitely a different experience being on call than it was two months ago.”
These are just two local examples that parody a larger national issue. Despite the constant media coverage, facts about this virus still remain unclear to much of the public.
The media as a whole has a responsibility to first and foremost properly inform the public about current events. However, that has not been the case with this story. The facts of this story have been routinely presented in either a misleading fashion by questionable sources, leaving the public just as uncertain as they were at the start of the story.
In attempts to quell some of the anxiety about Ebola, here are the key facts about the virus according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as of Saturday. Based on the current situation, there is no reason the majority of the U.S. should fear the Ebola outbreak.
Symptoms for the virus include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal stomach pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is eight to 10 days.
The current nations with widespread transmission only include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
There have only been four recorded cases and one death from Ebola in the U.S.
The only way the virus is transmitted is through blood and bodily fluids of a person who is already infected with Ebola. If you are not a healthcare worker, you have no reason to fear the virus.
For anyone who is generally concerned about your health and wellbeing, start eating less fat and get a flu shot. In a single year in the U.S., heart disease and the flu kill 596,577 and 53,826 people, respectively. However, unlike Ebola, these illness don’t receive nearly as much coverage because they are routine and mundane.
News events like these expose the flaws in our current news process, where facts and real information are compromised to gain clicks, viewers and subscribers. Instead of reporting on new smaller stories, it’s easier to continue reporting on older, sensationalized stories in order to create and maintain an immediate interest and viewership. The result of this process is exactly what is happening right now in the U.S.; a generalized mistrust over a hypothetical fear. The only way to end the unnecessary anxiety around Ebola is to share the pertinent facts and stop playing the “what if” game.