NBC News reported yesterday that the latest Ebola patient to return to the United States, Dr. Martin Salia, passed away at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha early Monday morning.
His is the second Ebola death on U.S. soil, and we certainly hope it is the last. There’s always the possibility, however, that another traveler or health care professional could bring the disease back inside our borders — but even if that occurs, it’s important to recall the facts of the United States’ experience of the Ebola crisis.
And the fact is this: You’re far more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than the Ebola virus. Since lightning strike deaths are exceptionally rare, though, let’s put the Ebola virus in the context of dangerous infectious diseases that you’re far more likely to contract. Keep in mind that an NPR report featuring a model of 12 imported Ebola cases found that the risk of contracting Ebola in America is one in 13.3 million.
Measles was nearly eradicated from the United States until people decided to forgo the MMR vaccine. In the first half of 2014, the CDC reported 580 cases of this deadly disease in 18 separate outbreaks. If the trend continues for the rest of this year, that’s roughly 1,160 measles cases — or an infection risk of about one in 258,600.
Over the past few years, HIV/AIDS has lost some of its terror because of the growth in quality treatments for chronic sufferers. Let’s make no mistake, though: HIV/AIDS is a deadly and painful disease, and there is no cure. The CDC estimates that 50,000 Americans will contract HIV/AIDS this year — or about one in 6,000 people.
Flu is an everyday illness, so we forget just how dangerous it is. WebMD recently reported that five to 20 percent of Americans will come down with the flu this year. That’s a risk of between one in 20 and one in five. This rate of infection leads to 200,000 hospitalizations each year, and up to 49,000 deaths.
4. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
MRSA looms as a health care crisis because legitimate treatment options are no longer working effectively to control this infection that eats away at skin and other tissue. Surprisingly, two of every 100 people carry the disease on their skin or in their nose, but the CDC reports that 75,000 people contract invasive infections each year — a risk of one in 4,000.
The National Institutes of Health reports that every year, 2,600 Americans are infected with bacterial or viral meningitis, which are fatal diseases 15 percent of the time, and often bring lifelong ailments like deafness. That’s an infection risk of about one in 116,000.
6. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.” It usually clears up on its own, but can sometimes lead to genital warts or cervical cancer. Over 4,000 American women are expected to die of cervical cancer this year alone.
When was the last time you thought about botulism? It’s an extremely rare form of foodborne illness, but it is frightening because it can lead to paralysis and death. In a 12-year period in America, the CDC received reports of only 116 botulism cases — which still carries a higher risk than the Ebola virus.
Ladies, this means you should get your shots, wash your hands and always practice safe sex. Also, don’t eat spoiled food. Let’s start with those healthy habits rather than worrying too much about Ebola — aside from donating to help those who are affected by the Ebola crisis in Africa.