I get asked every day about Ebola. Am I afraid? Should people worry? Is it going to kill a lot of people?
My standard advice?
Last year, no one in this country died of Ebola, but about 30,000 died of influenza. Quit smoking and get a flu shot.
People seem genuinely surprised and unimpressed by this advice. The fact that more people die of bee stings than rattlesnake bites somehow does not make people less afraid of rattlesnakes does not escape me. I get it. Ebola is like a bucket of rattlers. On steroids. On Fox News.
Over the years I've seen a lot of my doctor colleagues die young. Cancer seems terribly common. Heart attacks, once in a while. Suicide, far to often. A tragic accident, not too long ago. And a couple of years ago, the Swine Flu got one of us. Just. Like. That.
We see diseases, we catch diseases. I've been hospitalized for meningitis. I've had my share of influenza in the past and get my flu shot every year now. I've caught strep throat and colds and scabies. You can't avoid everything, and if a baby sneezes, they sneeze, right?
I can't speak for my colleagues. I wash my hands. Wear protective gear when I need to. Use gallons of hand sanitizer. Clean my stethoscope between patients. But honestly, my lifestyle of sleepless stress, laziness and donuts is more likely to get me than anything I catch from a patient. Wasting an hour of my week on Ebola training seemed pointless.
There is, perhaps, and odd level of denial mixed with commitment that allows doctors and nurses to do what they do. Carried to its highest level, the Doctors Without Borders travel to places where they are almost guaranteed to be exposed to either deadly disease or gunfire in the name of providing healthcare. We aren't afraid, like tightrope walkers aren't afraid, like stuntmen aren't afraid - it's just a job.
Quit smoking. Get a flu shot. And remember: HAVING a gym membership is not nearly as good for your health as USING your gym membership.....
Rare viruses are not on the list of things you should be worried about at this point.