With CNN blasting “RED ALERT” headlines and updates of the Ebola crisis all day long, it is not surprising that many people are developing a good dose of fear of a wide spread ebola outbreak here in the US. Admittedly, I myself awoke with an Ebola nightmare at 2 AM this morning with heart pounding. And in some ways, it is understandable. The thought of getting infected with a virulent virus that pierces your cells, hijacks your RNA equipment and kills senselessly and suddenly in a very dramatic way is downright scary. However,in our country at this point in time, the fear is largely unfounded for the general public. The news alerts are sending your amygdala into a frenzy and it is time to serve yourself a healthy dose of cold hard cognitive FACTS.
1. Ebola Virus is not transmitted through the air, like with coughing or sneezing, meaning it is only transmissible when in very close contact with bodily fluids and only after symptoms (especially fever) are present. In other words, you are much more likely to be infected and affected by the usual suspects like flu, GI bugs, and the common cold while riding the subway to work or boarding a domestic airplane.
2. In countries where infrastructure and education are good, the virus has been contained even when there was some local spread, as in the case of Nigeria. This article by the NY times does a very nice job of illustrating the current status of Ebola and where it has spread inside and outside of the US. The countries with the highest number of cases have very limited infrastructure and literacy rates under 45% as compared to the US’ 99%. This means that myths about doctors or healthcare workers spreading the disease can flourish and it is very hard to get good information to people on how they can prevent contracting the disease for themselves allowing the disease to spread further.
3. But why did we have transmissions in the US then? The transmissions that happened in the US happened are thought to be due to a breach of protocols to a hospital that was ill prepared for Ebola and much has been learned since then how to prevent this from happening again. Indeed, the CDC is beefing up its efforts related to preparedness for treatment of Ebola will be sending out SWAT Teams to be sure that what happened in Dallas does not happen again in the US. “Meet the CDC SWAT Team”
So now that your fear is cognitively controlled, what do you do to further your mind body health. The answer is COMPASSION. There can be no lack of compassion that the affected people and families are experiencing. Here is a guided loving kindness meditation narrated by Buddhist Sharon Salzberg:
Feeling compassionate? Don’t just feel it, do something about it. Remember, studies show that giving makes us happier. And in this case, given that you become involved in the fight against Ebola when you help fund organizations fighting it, it might just help you feel more empowered too. Donate in tribute to someone else and you will get a double bang for your buck when it comes to happiness. There are many aid organizations working hard to combat the Ebola Crisis. Here are some links to the ones that are very reputable and active at this time:
Alice G. Walton has published an extensive article on aid organization for Forbes.com if you want to delve into the details a bit more before donating.
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