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Putting Alabama’s Ebola fears in perspective

Another health care worker in Dallas tested positive for Ebola this week. That marks the second case of Ebola contracted in the United States.

While there have not been any cases of Ebola in Alabama (although there have been some scares), Gov. Bentley held a press conference last week explaining what protocols were put in place in case it does show up in this state. Every hospital in Alabama has been given a toolkit with information on how to protect hospital staff and important questions to ask patients who might have the virus.

At this point only one person in Alabama has met all the criteria to be tested for Ebola, and that patient ended up having malaria.

The only way to contract Ebola is if you come into direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. But the virus’s extremely high mortality rate and the CDC’s seemingly underwhelming response to it has caused many Americans to express understandable concerns. A new poll from The Washington Post revealed that 43% of Americans are worried that they’ll either get the disease themselves or someone in their family will.

And in some cases rational concerns have turned into irrational panic. As this picture taken Wednesday in Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C. shows, there are some individuals who will no longer enter public places without wearing a hazmat suit.

Hazmat

According to the aforementioned poll, 31% of Americans are even worried about an Ebola epidemic sweeping across the country, in spite of there not being a single person in the general population who has contracted the virus to this point.

Although there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about Ebola, it’s also important to keep it in perspective. Yes, we’re all going to die someday, but Ebola probably won’t be the reason why.  Hundreds of Americans die each year from falling out of bed. Champagne corks kill a couple dozen people each year. Cows kill about 20 Americans each year. Some studies have even shown that as many as 2,500 left-handed people die each year from incorrectly using products made for right-handed people.  All of those things currently pose a greater risk to our lives here in Alabama than Ebola. And in case you’re interested, the graphic below shows some of the actual leading causes of death in the Yellowhammer State.

So continue living your lives. In the meantime, we’ll stay in close contact with the State Dept. of Health, the Bentley administration and local health providers, as we did in reporting on the Ebola false alarm in Pell City last week.

(Stats below are for 2010, the most recent CDC numbers available)

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Follow Cort on Twitter @CortGatliff