When we think of disaster relief, our minds often first go to natural disasters such as hurricanes or snowstorms. Lately, however, the news is focused on a different type of disaster – diseases. In the news, the spread of Ebola has been referred to as an outbreak, an epidemic and most recently, a pandemic. What's the difference in this terminology?
- Outbreak: An outbreak is when a disease occurs in greater numbers than expected within a localized geographical area or span of time. It can occur in one or several communities or countries, and can last from days to years.
- Epidemic: An epidemic is a step above an outbreak when more people are afflicted than expected. The 2003 SARS epidemic is a good example.
- Pandemic: A pandemic is a more global scare, one that either affects more people or a larger global area, or in most scenarios, both. WebMd uses HIV/AIDS as an "example of one of the most destructive global pandemics in history."
What is the risk?
Ebola can be a serious disease, with a mortality rate upwards of 50 to 70%. However, the American healthcare system is much better prepared than the developing nations to handle the disease. As a result, the morality rate in the U.S. would be much lower, especially if people are diagnosed early.
By comparison, the flu killed 52,000 people last year. Unlike the flu, Ebola is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids such as sweat, blood, vomit, and saliva.
What do I need to know for my community?
The National Apartment Association recently released a document that shares precautionary guidance on taking necessary precautions. While the risk of contracting Ebola is low, the NAA recognizes the importance of being educated and prepared. Click here to read their suggestions for your employees and community.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has also released new documentation that "provides guidance on protecting workers in non-healthcare/non-laboratory settings from exposure to Ebola virus.” Click here to learn more.
A greater threat – hysteria
Another important term to understand in this context is “hysteria.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hysteria as "a situation in which many people behave or react in an extreme or uncontrolled way because of fear, anger, etc." The politically charged atmosphere of the mid-term elections have added to the hysteria with ill-advised and irresponsible comments by politicians and their operatives who are using Ebola as a political gain. This has unreasonably increased concern among the American public.
The Ebola Outbreak has two threats to the U.S. – one is the actual disease, which is low. The other is the hysteria surrounding the disease, which currently is a greater threat than the disease itself.