As the weekend passes and there are thankfully no further cases of Ebola disease in any of the people who had the earliest contact with Thomas Eric Duncan (the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola), I hope people may be reassured that we are not in the throes of an Ebola epidemic in the United States and that the people who are at greatest risk of contracting the disease are unfortunately those health care workers who are treating the infected patient.
Despite every precaution possible, and all of the personal protective equipment available, I am well aware that nothing is ever 100% . But, with that being said, we (all health care professionals) continue to learn from mistakes as well as victories and I am sure that as we go forward combatting Ebola or other emerging viral infections, there will be new recommendations and procedures to learn, which is not a new concept in medicine. That is how progress is made.
Unfortunately, the media (of which I must include myself) has once again managed to try to frighten the public and has done a good job of putting the three cases of Ebola out of 318 million Americans (unfortunately including 1 death) at the top of the news 24 hours a day. The cameras continue to focus on the hospital in which I go in and out of every day. This continued media presence has also affected the doctors who practice in the hospital as well as the professional buildings on the same campus. These doctors are my colleagues and friends and are great doctors.
People have been canceling their dermatology visit in a professional building not even attached to the hospital and postponing a mammogram in another building. Some patients will not come to my practice across the street from the hospital and would prefer to drive 20 minutes north to another office?
There are parents keeping a child home from school because their classmate’s father is one of the doctors (heroes) taking care of the Ebola patients. What are they thinking? How is this idea of catching Ebola from walking into an office or down a hallway or being in the same school being sustained? Basically due to unsubstantiated fear and not fact. Fact is this illness is not airborne you must come into contact with body fluids of the sick patient.
Emotions are running wild in my hometown of Dallas. But emotions will not treat or eradicate Ebola, only good science will. Thankfully we have that available to us in our country.
So listen to those who are knowledgable about infectious disease not lay people who expose their own ideas based on “what if’s”. Don’t listen to the pundits who are arguing with some of the best scientists and doctors that we have because if they themselves get sick one day, they will be seeking out these very same physicians and nurses to care for them.
But one thing I am sure of, we will have influenza this winter and you can try to protect yourself and your family with flu vaccine. There has never been a more important year to get vaccinated. Run, don’t walk and get vaccinated!