4 Diseases You Should Worry More About Than Ebola

When KTAR’s Bruce St James said to me on the air, “You are really worried about Ebola aren’t you?” I replied yes. But I don’t swim in the ocean because I fear sharks. Fear isn’t reasonable- but the unmitigated ignorance of those who worry about bringing the Americans home who worked in Western Africa worries me more than Ebola. But to give you a few things to fear instead consider this:

Every year an average of 32,000 people in the United States die from influenza. We have a vaccine that is partially effective, and some anti-viral agents that are partially effective, but we often don’t see people getting flu shots – even though every reasonable physician tells them to.

We don’t like it when infants die – and yet pertussis (whooping cough) is on the rise and it affects the newly born children. Not only do we have a vaccination against this- but we know that you need a booster every ten years.  So if you worry about Ebola but have not gotten your booster (TDAP) in ten years, then it is time to go to your local pharmacy and get the vaccination. Most of these infants are killed by pertussis from well-meaning adults who have not received a vaccine in years and contract the disease.

This is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States. Many of the bacteria that cause pneumonia we have a vaccine for. Yet many elderly people do not get vaccinated against pneumonia, nor do those at high risk- such as those who take immunosuppressive drugs, like Enbrel.

Food Borne Illness
1 in 6 Americans get sick from the food they eat. Over 100,000 are hospitalized, and about 5,000 people die as a result of this. Yet people still buy processed hamburger instead of watching the butcher cut a steak, we still have people go to fast food restaurants where the salads are handled poorly. We still go to Sushi restaurants even though we don’t know what fish they are really serving or how old it is.

What about the recent improper handling of serious pathogens at CDC and NIH laboratories
Yes- there was improper handling – and yet, in spite of that there was not one death from anthrax, from bird flu, or from smallpox. There is no evidence that a single person was infected. What they had was a protocol breach, with a tremendous amount of concern – and development of new protocols and methods of handling these agents. Having a protocol breach over a vial of material does not translate into a patient in an isolation ward with Ebola contaminating Atlanta. 

Ebola comes from bodily fluids, and if you have seen the suits they wear you can be assured there are no bodily fluids that will be transmitted. If you have glimpsed at the conditions in Western Africa, where they do not have isolation units, and do not have the ability to isolate or clean as we do.

While this outbreak of Ebola is bad, and I worry about the person on the airplane coughing – it is more likely I will get some other infectious disease long before this one. But I still worry about Ebola, and I still won’t swim in the ocean where there are sharks. But I am happy that the Americans are home, where they can get the best care, and will not be infecting anyone.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, a renowned weight loss surgeon, is a leading advocate of culinary medicine. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.

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