Ebola: Outbreak, Epidemic, Pandemic or Hysteria?

November 12, 2014 10:02 am

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.

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November 6, 2014 1:12 pm

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The ABC’s of the CDC’s PSAs: Part One

September 10, 2014 10:02 am

Over the next few weeks, we're going to get a better understanding on the Center for Disease Control's Public Service Announcements – what topics they cover, how they are relayed and how they help with post-disaster clean up.

A is ASL

I remember visiting a friend in Florida one year during Hurricane Season and Jeb Bush's reign as Governor. A hurricane was brewing out in the Gulf and it was hard to find anything else to talk about in an otherwise boring, hot Florida summer. Gov. Bush put on great press conferences, partly due to his fluency in ASL – American Sign Language. The CDC offers PSA's on many subjects, in many formats including Spanish and ASL. This allows anyone, regardless of language, to be informed and prepared for a disaster.

These PSA's vary in topics and are very informative. There are PSAs about every kind of disaster and relevant information. Common topics include but certainly are not limited to:

  • Earthquakes, tornados, windstorms, etc.
  • How to prepare before the storm and how to deal with the aftermath.
  • Medical information, such as allergies from mold or dealing with depression after a disaster.
  • Safe drinking water and keeping your food at proper temperatures during a power outage.
  • Building safety and electrical safety.

These PSA's are readily available at the CDC's website. Be sure to look at important PSAs for your area.

Next week: B is broadcasting. Read our next blog to learn how these public service announcements are made in this era of technology.

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