Ebola: Fear, not facts, drives frenzy

Guest post by Jonathan H. Burroughs, president and CEO of The Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network. He's also a certified physician executive and a fellow of the American College of Physician Executives and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

"The world is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think." -- Horace Walpole

There are times in history when feelings and emotions transcend reason and the outbreak of more than 13,000 active cases with 4,950 mortalities from the Ebola virus in Western Africa (as of November 7, 2014) is a case in point.

Although the West African outbreak is a significant public health issue that demands international resources and support to contain and manage, the incidence of active Ebola cases and deaths outside of Africa is infinitesimally small with only four laboratory confirmed cases, one death in the United States and one laboratory confirmed case, and zero deaths in Spain.

Despite the extremely low risk of transmission of the virus outside of Western Africa (due to low viral loads from the rare exposure to someone without advanced disease), President Barack Obama requested more than $6.2 billion from Congress in emergency funds that would include establishing 50 Ebola treatment centers throughout the country to prepare for a potential epidemic of Ebola cases that will probably never occur. Twenty percent of Americans currently live in fear they will contract Ebola and some politicians reinforce these fears through advocating strict quarantines for everyone traveling from Western Africa whether they are symptomatic or not.

To put things in perspective, the following are essential facts concerning Ebola and its potential risk to Americans:

FACT: The vast majority of Ebola cases are centered in Western Africa. All travelers from Western Africa are currently screened at five major airports (in New York's JFK,  the District of Columbia's Dulles, Chicago's O'Hare, Newark Liberty in New Jersey, and Atlanta Hartsfield) where anyone with signs or symptoms of disease are quarantined and those who may be carriers are monitored.

>> Read the full commentary at Hospital Impact