The death toll continues to climb in Africa, rising to nearly 4,500. The U.S. has seen its first death caused by the Ebola virus. Now many healthcare facilities around the country are preparing for a potential outbreak. And while Ebola is a threat, there are many other deadly microbes that are much closer to home.
“There are bacteria and viruses that are contagious and dangerous and many times both,” says Dr. Nancy Khardori, the director of infectious disease at Eastern Virginia Medical School
There’s measles, meningitis and influenza just to name a few.
Dr. Khardori says Ebola is only transmitted through bodily fluids. But the flu, for instance, covers a wider area therefore the risk for exposure can be much greater.
“It’s transmitted by droplets like coughing or sneezing and so forth. It can be transmitted between two people within a relatively short distance of two feet or less,” says Dr. Khardori.
The flu virus, for a short time, stays on objects the infected person has touched like door handles and computer keyboards.
According to the CDC, 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu every year and thousands die of complications from the flu.
While those numbers show a much greater chance of the average person catching a more common virus like the flu than Ebola, Dr. Khardori says some deadly microbes are more dangerous than others like the one making headlines in recent weeks.
“If I got exposed to a highly contagious disease like meningitis I’ll be given a medicine so I don`t actually get it, but we don`t have those types of medicines available for Ebola or SARS at this point.