WASHINGTON— A recent survey shows more than four in 10 Americans are worried they or a relative might catch the Ebola virus, even though so far there has only been three confirmed Ebola cases in the United States.
In the world of 24 hour news, it is hard to avoid reports about the Ebola threat. Some say the coverage just increases Ebola anxiety among Americans.
Washington resident Jau’Nelle Hugee said Ebola just adds to her already high stress level.
Staying healthy is how she fights back. Hugee said she feels very anxious about going to the hospital.
A new Gallup Poll shows Americans list Ebola as one of the country’s top ten problems, while another survey shows nearly half of Americans worry they or a loved one will get infected.
The American Psychological Association said misinformation causes alarm.
After the first person in the U.S. was diagnosed with Ebola and admitted into a Dallas, Texas hospital, the head of the Centers for Disease Control Thomas Frieden was optimistic there would be no other cases.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here,” said Frieden.
Then the patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, died, and two nurses who treated him were diagnosed with Ebola.
Frieden was also confident about how the hospital would handle the Ebola case.
“Virtually any hospital in the country that has isolation can do Ebola isolation," said Frieden.
But it was at “virtually any hospital” that the virus spread to the Dallas nurses. And that’s what panics some Americans.
Psychologists say some anxiety is good because it increases awareness. But too much can be paralyzing.
Mary Alvord is a psychologist who specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. She said her patients feel anxious when they aren’t in control.
“When we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t have the information and so then our imaginations fill in the gaps. Or conversations with other people fill in the gaps,” said Alvord.
The best advice is to get facts from the experts. But sometimes even the experts don’t have the answers.
“I don’t think we can predict when this epidemic is going to be over,” said Anthony Faucy, an infectious disease expert with the National Institutes of Health.
“We may not know what we don’t know,” pointed out Jesse Goodman, of the Walter Reed/Georgetown University hospital.
Here’s one thing doctors do know: Ebola is contagious... and fear can be too.