How scary is Ebola?

Ebola is scary. (Hypothesis: The fewer syllables a disease has, the scarier it is at a gut/click-bait level. For example, plague compared to malaria.) And it's true that the recent outbreak of Ebola in Guinea is objectively unusual by virtue of how widespread it is throughout the country. Generally, Ebola is relatively easy to quarantine off and tends to get itself stuck in rural areas.

But Ebola is not a disease that travelers from Western countries should be particularly concerned about. Nor, for that matter, is it even a disease that people living in Guinea, and the other African countries where Ebola has popped up, should be particularly concerned about. Ebola is scary. But, relatively speaking, Ebola kills far fewer people and has far less of an impact on the lives of ordinary people than endemic diseases like tuberculosis, the aforementioned malaria, and any number of intestinal diseases that cause childhood diarrhea. The CBC has a nice story that focuses in on this perspective. You should read it.

Thanks to Tom Zeller!

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