Ebola has hit American soil, and as of October 8th, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the US has died. If you spend any of your time on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with people terrified that the disease will wipe out mankind as we know it. Chances are, you’ve seen an equally passionate stance represented that claims the disease is nothing to be afraid of. It’s difficult to pick truth out of the never-ending discussion as it occurs, so there’s one question on the minds of those caught in the crossfire of this Ebola debate: How contagious is Ebola? Spoiler alert: You don’t need to scramble for a huge health insurance policy.
It’s impossible not to be a little worried about Ebola. It’s a scary disease, killing 70% of the people it infects. Keep in mind, however, that the majority of Ebola cases were reported in Africa. Only one person in the United States has been confirmed to have Ebola; he was out and about and contagious for four days before he was admitted to the hospital.
This seems like a reason to panic, right? Someone walking around with a contagious case of Ebola (one that would eventually kill the original carrier) seems like scary stuff, right? Not according to health officials, medical experts, and a little thing called R0.
The R0 is a mathematical representation of how easy it is for a disease to get out of control, and the man at the helm of the CDC isn’t afraid. “I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or case, of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country,” said the Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden.
Let’s compare Ebola’s R0 of 1.5 to the R0 of other well-known diseases. To give you an idea of how high the scale goes, measles, one of the most contagious diseases known to man, has an R0 of 18. Since we have a measles vaccine in place, its R0 is nearly 0, so you don’t need to worry about it, but most medical professionals don’t think you should be any more worried about an Ebola outbreak. We’re not all about to pay the harsh penalty for not having health insurance. Ebola is not spread through the air, and whether you like Obamacare or not, the United States has an extremely developed healthcare system.
Medical professionals and the head of the CDC are not worried about a full-scale Ebola outbreak; they know how to contain the disease and keep it from becoming widespread. People with Ebola are not contagious until they begin to show symptoms, so to break the chain of transmission and stop this outbreak for good, health workers need to isolate anyone infected before they start showing symptoms. If that happens, ideally, the R0 will drop to zero and America will be Ebola-free.
Are you worried about Ebola? Do you have new information to share on the matter? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!