A scare has swept through the United States these past couple of months, and currently Ebola is the disease on everyone’s minds. With this scare comes the usual sensationalism, Ebola myths, unfounded rumours and panic. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened of course; whether it’s AIDS, SARS, or bird-flu, there’s nearly always the perception that this time the current endemic will see the end of mankind.
As an employer, you may well see this alarm first hand from your employees, some of whom may respond to the stories they hear about Ebola with some degree of anxiety. This anxiety could lead to staff measures pursuing unnecessary – and potentially unsafe – measures to protect themselves from what is ultimately a very hard to catch disease. It may also compromise how they interact with colleagues and clients. It is essential you maintain work morale, especially if your employees may come into contact with a large number of people throughout their shift, such as retail workers, hospitality workers, or customer relations. Knowing the more common myths and how they are wrong can further help you debunk them, and thus greatly assist in assuaging fears amongst your workforce.
Myth #1 – Ebola is Airborne
If Ebola were airborne, then we’d already be seeing far more cases than we are now. The truth of the matter is that Ebola can only be transmitted via direct fluid-to-fluid contact. Merely being in the same room or even touching a person infected with Ebola is not sufficient to transfer the virus to a new host. This is one of the reasons Ebola is so endemic within Africa – it has much poorer water sanitation than developed nations do. The water most people drink has probably already been in the mouths of several hundred other people, and may even have been contaminated by human waste in the direst of circumstances. Added with inadequate understanding of medicine amongst much of the population, and the ground is ripe for an explosive spread of the virus.
You can already see why America is not a similar case.
Myth #2 – Ebola is Highly Contagious
Again, if this were the case, we’d have a lot more people in hospital with Ebola right now. To give you some perspective in how wrong this Ebola myth is, consider these comparisons with other diseases. The measure of how virulent a given infection can be is called a reproduction rate (or R0), which measures how many people can be expected to be infected with the virus from one case. For example, SARs has an R0 of around 2-5, smallpox 5-7, and measles 11-12. Ebola only has an R0 of 1-2, which makes it one of the least infectious diseases out there.
Myth #3 – Anyone Who Returns from Africa With a Cough Is Infected
All this Ebola myth will encourage is a witch hunt, so it is important to nip this in the bud immediately. So far only three people throughout the length of the “pandemic” has returned to the US with confirmed cases of Ebola. There have been no other confirmed cases, despite relatively regular air traffic between the USA and West African nations.
Chances are if a friend, colleague, or client has returned from Africa with a temperature or cough; they are suffering from another complaint other than ebola, such as malaria or a mere disagreement with the water. While these cases can be dangerous in their own terms, they are not ebola.
Myth #4 – You Need Expensive, Specialised Disinfectants to Kill Ebola Viruses
Most doctors say that Ebola viruses can be dealt with simply by washing with hot water and ordinary types of soap. If ever you think you’ve come into contact with someone carrying Ebola, specifically a fluid such as blood or saliva, simply wash it off in the sink. If you feel it is necessary, use anti-bacterial liquid soap as well.
Myth #5 – If You Have Ebola, You’ve a 90% Fatality Chance
One of the most striking qualities of this deadly virus is just how varied its mortality rate is, with percentage of fatalities ranging as wide as 20%-90%. Guess where the majority of high-fatality stats come from? That’s right, from countries with little to no public healthcare, such as Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone. Such countries also have greater issues relating to public sanitation and general knowledge of hygiene, which further limits their ability to guard against the infection.
In the USA, the virus has far less chance of spreading, let alone becoming fatal. With proper personal hygiene, you will probably never encounter Ebola personally.
It is essential that you educate your workforce as to the truths behind these Ebola myths, or rather the lack of it. To date Ebola is probably one of the least serious viral inflictions the USA has ever seen in a while, and emphasising this to your workforce will be highly useful in maintaining good sense about it. This can easily be achieved by distributing medical information amongst your staff listing all relevant information about the virus, which can be easily found online and in any medical practise. If ill-feeling continues, you can easily host a talk to put an end to the trouble once and for all.
Allowing the sort of hysteria seen in more sensationalist media is damaging to you, your business, your staff and your customers. Fortunately, once you have a clear sight on things the hype is quickly dispelled. Approach the matter frankly, concisely and immediately and you’ll have little cause for concern.