The current Ebola outbreak is a public health challenge, and global concern about the disease is understandable. However, it is important that businesses and other organizations keep the risks in perspective. There is a great deal of misinformation and fear-mongering infusing media reports. Here are a few key facts to keep in mind:
- Ebola is transmitted ONLY via direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected, symptomatic person or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions. The virus is NOT airborne or spread through food or water.
- Ebola's rapid onset and high mortality levels are frightening, but other diseases have a much more extensive and regular impact. More than a million people die from AIDS in Africa each year, followed closely by lung infections, malaria and severe diarrhea as causes of death on the continent. In industrialized nations, heart disease and cancer continue to be the biggest killers year over year.
- The chances of a major Ebola outbreak occurring in an industrialized nation are minimal. The spread of the disease in Africa has been tied, in large part, to improper handling of corpses and a lack of basic health care resources.
These facts notwithstanding, the United States' Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Travel Alert Level 3 on July 31, 2014. The communication recommended that U.S. citizens defer unnecessary travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The key to successful risk management is to stay informed and take appropriate (but not excessive) caution as warranted.
Although Ebola is not likely to become a pandemic, business leaders should leverage employees' increased attention to the issue as an opportunity to enhance organizational preparedness. Please click here to view HUB's pandemic planning checklist.