Panic is the order of the day as news outlets all over the world report on the outbreak of Ebola that has claimed more than 4,000 lives. The virus has also hit the United States with confirmed cases in Texas and now New York, increasing fears that a catastrophe like that being seen in some African nations will arrive in the country. While the news media has only helped escalate fears and panic, a quick look at some statistics can go a long way to allaying some people’s anxiety. While the contagious nature of Ebola has many people on edge, there are at least six things more deadly than the virus which no one seems to be worrying about at all.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America and one of the most prevalent ones in the Western world. Effectively, it is a closing of the arteries in the heart due to plaque and fatty build-up in and around the heart. One contributing factor to this killer is the high fat, high carb diets that many people have. Eating fast food and lack of exercise are both contributing factors in the rise of obesity which correlates to increase cases of heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 600,000 people die every year in the United States from heart disease. That truly seems like an epidemic compared to the one death from Ebola reported in America this year.
No one likes to talk about cancer, but it is the second largest cause of death in America. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2012 more than 577,000 people would die from cancer, roughly 1,500 people per day. Cancer doe not take a toll just on the patient, however. Families often suffer mental anguish and depression due to the diagnoses. The treatments for cancer can be horrific, but the stories of people who have beaten the odds are all inspiring. In general, survival rates for cancer patients are very good, reflecting the high level of treatment they receive. Between the years of 2001 and 2007, the survival rate was 67 percent, which is better than the current 25 percent survival rate gleaned from the four cases of Ebola reported in America.
The seasonal flu outbreak is one of the six things more deadly than Ebola in the United States. Illnesses such as pneumonia and the flu are classified as respiratory diseases and are the third largest killer of Americans. A resident of New York right now has more likelihood of dying of the winter sniffles than of Ebola, even if they sat in a cafe with the doctor who reportedly has Ebola symptoms. Estimates of deaths during flu season over a 30 year span range from as low as 3,000 to as many as 49,000, according to the CDC. Luckily, only five to 20 percent of all Americans get the flu and a yearly dose of the flu vaccine can make sure that it is basically harmless.
Stroke as a result of an existing condition or simply bad health is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States. Much like heart disease, it has its connections to diet and exercise, as well as smoking. More Texans die of stroke every year than anything else, putting into perspective the risk of Ebola in that state. A worried Texan might be better served by joining a gym and going vegetarian than they would be buying a hazmat suit.
Every klutz in America should be more worried about tripping and falling than about dying from Ebola. The CDC reports that the overall rate of unintentional injury deaths is 40 out of every 100,000 people. In particular, car accidents are a common cause of death, in part due to the high numbers of cars on the road every day. Statistically speaking, because people use a motor vehicle of some kind every day, it is more likely that they will die from a motor vehicle accident than anything else. Out of every 100,000 people in America, around 10 will die in a car. And yet no one is calling for a travel ban due to accidents like they are because of Ebola.
The most dangerous thing about the Ebola outbreak in America is not actually the virus itself, but the role the media plays in spreading panic and misinformation. Doubts raised in the media about the government’s handling of the crisis have escalated fears and caused many people not to trust the very experts whose advice could save their lives. Headlines warn of Ebola being “out of control,” but the fact of the matter is that the nation and its healthcare officials are well-prepared to handle the disease. While no one has yet died because of media misinformation and fear mongering, the possibility that they could mounts with every day that reporters and pundits engage in creating more panic. That is why the media’s coverage of Ebola is the sixth thing that is more deadly than the virus itself.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury