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Humanity’s Irrational Fear of Ebola

24 Oct 2014
| Under Lung Disease, Related Conditions | Posted by
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Humanity's irrational fear of ebola Lung Institute

Awareness Helps; Mass Hysteria Doesn’t

Ebola and Me

It seems that you can’t go even ten minutes with hearing it. The big E. The one thing everyone everywhere is scared of: Ebola. Yes, I said it. Ebola. The word in itself has the power to make people tremble in their place. As people shake with fear, the impending doom often associated with Ebola begins to take hold in the minds of individuals not even remotely close to contracting Ebola.

We, humans, have a tragic flaw of constantly misjudging risk. It’s horrible really. In our everyday lives, we make decisions based on “common sense” that really make no sense at all. We are vastly irrational. We have a terrible sense of what to fear. Here are some ways how:

Think transportation. Every single day people choose to jump in their car to commute to work, to grab an overpriced dinner at a swanky restaurant downtown, to watch your son play little league tee ball while he really just kicks around the dirt. It’s true; we constantly rely on our automobiles to make life happen. And when vacation strikes, many people choose to hop in their car for a road trip. But why? Cost? Distance? Typically, the answer is fear. People are scared of flying.

Stats Break: 1 in 11 million people will be in a fatal plane crash, yet a staggering 1 in 5,000 people will die from a fatal car crash.

The same people that choose to battle rush hour are scared of crashing on a plane; where is the logic there?

If that doesn’t show human irrationality, perhaps this will. Women are continually taught to fear the dark outside world. We are not supposed to walk around at night alone because anything could happen. Cue images from Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit or Criminal Minds. But what most people—men, women, anyone—fail to acknowledge that most of the time the real danger is in domestic violence and acquaintance rape.

Stats Break: 1 in 3 women are victims of domestic violence. Specific to sexual assault, it is estimated that 96% of attacks are done by someone the victim knows while only 4% of rapes are the result of strangers.

Yet we don’t live our lives fearing the people we know, we fear the people we don’t. Clearly not the most logical, but still a facet of human nature.

In the medical world, Ebola is hardly one of the greatest killers in the industry. With big name diseases like cancer, people don’t think about the danger associated with lung disease. Lung disease kills nearly 4 million people every year, but that hardly makes everybody quit smoking and seek medical attention for shortness of breath. Yet with one death from Ebola in the United States, protestors are advocating for putting a stop to travel to West Africa. Talk about a bit of an overstatement. Even factoring in the global death toll of Ebola, which is currently around 4,500 people, the number doesn’t come close to the number of individuals suffering from lung disease. Given the mass hysteria surrounding Ebola, there seems to be a disconnect from the very real and much more common killer—lung disease.

Ebola is a scary disease, I’ll give you that. But it is not mass hysteria, stop all travel, end of the world scary. For one, Ebola is not highly contagious. Infectious and contagious are two different things. So stop assuming that because the news tells you that Ebola is highly infectious that it is inevitable that you will catch it. Unless you have acquired bodily fluids—blood, saliva, vomit, feces, semen, etc.—from an Ebola patient, you are most likely in the clear.

If you are still terrified of Ebola acquisition, good luck. Perhaps it is a good time to re-evaluate your fears. Lung disease does not require transmission from one person to another. It can affect anyone; lung disease does not discriminate. If you or a loved one is concerned that you may be dealing with lung disease, contact the Lung Institute online or call us at 888-745-6697.




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