Catching This Is More Likely Than Catching Ebola

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With more than 4,000 deaths in West Africa, and the first official death of a U.S. patient less than two weeks ago, how real is the threat of catching Ebola compared to the common flu?As flu season approaches, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department says you may want to worry more about getting the flu shot than worrying about the deadly disease.

You’ve heard of it by now, but what are the chances of you getting Ebola?

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Tim Timmons, Communicable Disease Program Supervisor with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department says chances are low in comparison to more common illnesses seen every year. “The risk for people is very low, versus something like influenza,” said Timmons. Influenza season is something that we’re coming into. “Every year, depending on the severity of the flu season, we lose 3,000 to 49,000 individuals to flu-related illness.”

Unlike the flu which can be an airborne virus, Ebola can only be spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids through an open sore, wound, or the eyes, nose, or mouth of a person who has obvious symptoms. Timmons says this makes the likelihood of contracting Ebola very low.


“The risk of getting cancer is a lot higher,” said Timmons. “The risk of coming in contact with HIV and getting it through blood or sexual contact is a lot higher than coming into contact with someone who has Ebola.”

Timmons says he’s confident health care in the U.S. can handle the spread of Ebola, making people less likely to contract and die from the virus than in West Africa, where the chances of survival are a lot lower.

“Our ability to deal with this is a lot better than AIDS in the early 80s when we didn’t know what was causing it or how you got it,” said Timmons. “We know what it is and how it works, and how you get it and how you don’t get it.”

Timmons says because the threat of dying from the flu is much higher than the dying from Ebola, he offers a suggestion to people of all ages to get the flu shot as soon as possible.

READ: How To Handle A Flu Emergency

Below are the symptoms for Ebola and the flu:

Flu symptoms include:
  • A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Over time, Ebola symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Red eyes
  • Raised rash
  • Chest pain and cough
  • Stomach pain
  • Severe weight loss
  • Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and bruising (people near death may bleed from other orifices, such as ears, nose and rectum)

Frequent hand washing, drinking plenty of water and keeping your area and home clean are great ways to reduce your chances of contracting the flu.


Visit the Colds and Flu center for more articles.