Ebola - the new Sars?

Ebola - the new Sars?

On October 23, North Korea announced that it would close its borders to tourists as a precaution to prevent Ebola spreading to its country. Amid calls within the US to ban flights originating from Ebola-affected countries, it’s hardly surprising that this reclusive nation is the first to take such a measure to ensure the safety of its citizens. 

The recent Ebola scare brings back vivid memories of the 2003-2004 Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak that halted the entire city. Watching the number of people who contracted Sars and the number of deaths increase by day, the experience of utter helplessness is paralysing. As a result, we can see how sanitary conscious Hong Kong people are now, with sanitised handrails, masks when coughing, at a rate that fascinates (and somewhat alarms) the tourists that pass through. 

But can we say that Ebola is the new Sars? For one, unlike influenza, Ebola does not spread through the air, rather through contact with the bodily fluids of infected people. This makes it highly unlikely that those who come into contact with infected people for brief periods of time will contract the disease easily. Studies have shown that close contact with an infected person and their bodily fluids is necessary in order for the disease to be passed on. 

While we must exercise vigilance, we must also remember that when faced with health scares, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing of every piece of information we come across. Precaution is necessary but overthinking and panicking can lead to misunderstanding and possible repercussions.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
No need to panic

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