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Ebola outbreak unlikely in U.S.

GORDON C. CROWELL
Guest Columnist

When I was very young I wEbola has been much in the news lately. I never heard of Ebola during my time in medical school, in training after school, in the Army Medical Corps or during my years of medical practice. If I saw any Ebola in all that time, I was completely unaware of it.
Now all that has changed. You can hardly watch a TV news program or read a newspaper without hearing or seeing something about Ebola. This flood of information has taught me several things about this disease. Ebola is a virus for which there is no cure and no proven preventive measures. It is spread by direct contact with the infected body fluids of people who have it, not by exposure to airborne coughs or sneezes. People in contact with body fluids of Ebola victims are at increased risk if they have skin scrapes or cuts or tiny tears in the lining of their mouths. Unlike many other viral diseases, people cannot spread it until they have symptoms.
These facts partly explain why, although not impossible, the chance or an Ebola epidemic developing in this country, such as I now going on in some West African countries, is extremely low. Also, we are unlikely to have an outbreak of Ebola here because public sanitation and personal hygiene are much better in our country. Further, in much of rural Africa, relatives and friends touch and handle the dead bodies of Ebola victims, thus sharply increasing the likelihood of catching the disease themselves.
The communications media in the U.S. has tended, as it so often does in potentially serious situations, to overplay the risk of an Ebola epidemic in our country, no doubt to frighten people and encourage them to read more newspapers and look at more TV news.
So, what should we do to protect ourselves against this unquestionably dangerous disease? Watch TV news and read newspapers to keep ourselves informed about the spread of this condition and, if it ever comes here, avoid contact with the body fluids of those who have it. Rest assured that researchers are working to develop a cure and a vaccine to prevent the occurrence of this terrible affliction. Meanwhile, don’t waste time and nervous energy worrying about something which will probably never happen.
And, while your TV is tuned to a news program or a newspaper open in your hands, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the important things going on here and the world. It will make you a better citizen.

Gordon C. Crowell is a guest columnist with the Lincoln Times-News.

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