We Are Overreacting to Ebola

Sam WangThe amount of Ebola coverage is amazing: 1,869 stories from October 20 to 24 alone. That coverage came on the heels of the death of one patient in Dallas, Texas. The level of coverage is amazing considering the far greater impact of other infectious diseases in the United States: rotavirus, which kills dozens of small children every year; West Nile virus, a similar number of adults; and of course influenza, which kills thousands even in years when there is no epidemic.

Ebola appeals to our fears: the disease is grisly. It is a serious threat with tremendous public health implications — in western Africa. That is the reason for sending relief workers overseas — fighting it there so we don’t have to fight it over here. Unfortunately, popular intuitions about it are often wrong. Many people seem unaware that asymptomatic individuals are not contagious, and the disease is not transmitted by airborne means. It is unfortunate that more coverage does not focus on evidence-based information…

—Sam Wang
Overreacting to Ebola?

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