Dr. Siegel: Fear, Panic Threaten to Make Ebola Outbreak Worse
Dr. Marc Siegel is sounding the alarm about the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 100 people in West Africa. Specifically, he wants people everywhere to realize that this virus does not spread easily and pushed back against the notion that doctors can easily spread the disease.
Siegel worries that the death of a top doctor in Sierra Leone from the virus will only cause more fear in the region. He noted that in some African villages, people are afraid of health care workers, mistakenly believing they can get the disease from them.
"The very people who can help contain it, the villagers are afraid of. That's got to stop. ... When people are afraid, they don't take proper precaution," he said.
Siegel said he believes a vaccine should be available within the next few years. He said the chance of the disease spreading to the U.S. is slim.
Watch the segment from Happening Now above and read a portion of Siegel's FoxNews.com column:
It is very unlikely that someone will contract Ebola from casual contact on a plane. It is even more unlikely that if Ebola does appear in the U.S., that it will lead to a sustained outbreak here, because of our public health system. The challenge to provide supportive care while properly isolating patients is much greater in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea than it would be here.
Living close together, being unaware of how viruses spread, and even burial rituals have helped to spread Ebola in West Africa. This epidemic will still likely be contained and not spread to other countries. If it does spread, it will likely not be sustained, in part because Ebola is so deadly it usually kills the host before he/she has a chance to spread it.
Several vaccines and anti-viral drugs have showed promising results in animals, and human testing is under way, though no treatment or vaccine will be ready for market soon. In the meantime, the best treatment for both Ebola and the spreading fear of Ebola is to offer the world information and perspective, and for those afflicted in Africa -- careful isolation.
When it comes to a health scare, the news media has never been great at providing this kind of calm, rational perspective. The time to start is now.