While the Ebola crisis in West Africa is nothing to joke about, it's apparent that Americans have a great deal to learn when it comes to their perceptions of the disease.
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that nearly 40 percent of Americans are concerned that there will be a large outbreak of Ebola within the United States in the next year. The fact of the matter, however, is that this is exceptionally unlikely.
Simply put, Americans understand that Ebola is threatening, but obviously haven't done a lot of careful reading on the subject.
Ebola has spread in West Africa because of poor sanitation, infrastructure and medical resources. There are also cultural and political reasons that have assisted the spread of the disease across several nations in Africa. In the region affected, there is a great distrust of doctors, for example, and some people believe that Ebola is simply a hoax.
If there were an outbreak in the United States, however, it would be contained quickly. Moreover, the United States has the equipment and medication to help treat anyone that has contracted the disease.
Thus, even if a person in America were somehow infected with Ebola, it would be unlikely to spread, as the infected would be quarantined immediately, and he or she would also have a decent chance of surviving.
Ebola is also somewhat difficult to contract, considering that one has to come in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person in order for the disease to spread.
The media's heavy concentration on the disease has likely led to this disproportionate response to the actual threat Ebola poses to Americans. Moreover, it seems that Americans may have only read the headlines without taking a look at the information available on Ebola.
In fact, there are many other diseases and illnesses that are far more deadly than Ebola, but have not gotten the same amount of attention recently. The truth is, Americans are far more likely to die in a car accident than from Ebola.
When one looks at data from the World Health Organization surrounding the leading causes of death across the globe, Ebola isn't even in the top ten. According to the Center for Disease Control, these 10 health problems are the leading causes of death in the United States:
In 2011, suicide claimed nearly 40,000 lives. Suicide is often a product of mental illness. In essence, just like the body, it's important to keep the mind healthy.
If you feel that you are suffering from mental illness, you should seek treatment. There is nothing wrong with asking for help; in fact, it's a sign of a healthy brain. If you are having suicidal thoughts, you do not have to suffer alone.
Residents of the US should call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (Kidney Disease)
In 2011, kidney disease claimed nearly 46,000 lives. Kidneys perform vital health functions. Accordingly, if they are unhealthy, it increases the risk for death.
The leading causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. It is often hard to detect, so it's important to stay on top of your health and diet.
8. Influenza and Pneumonia
Every year, 5 percent to 20 percent of the US population contracts the flu. In more serious instances, complications with the flu lead to pneumonia. In 2011, over 50,000 people died from flu-related problems.
In 2012, nearly 10 percent of the population, or around 30 million Americans, had diabetes. In 2011, it killed nearly 74,000 people.
You can lower your risk for diabetes by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
6. Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia. It causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. In 2011, it claimed nearly 85,000 lives.
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
A staggering amount of people -- nearly 127,000 -- died from injuries sustained during accidents in 2011. It continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood can't flow to a certain part of the brain.
The risk of stroke is higher for people with unhealthy habits, such as poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking. In 2011, nearly 129,000 people died from strokes.
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) include asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lower respiratory illnesses. In 2011, CLRD claimed close to 143,000 lives.
Cancer is the general term for a group of more than 100 diseases. Thus, there are many forms of cancer. Cancer is caused by exponential growth in abnormal cells in certain parts of the body.
Breast and prostate cancers are the most common forms, but pancreatic cancer is the most deadly. In 2011, over half a million Americans died from cancer. Cancer causes one of every four deaths in America.
In 2014, it is estimated that nearly 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States, and cancer will likely lead to around 585,000 deaths.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, close to 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States. Likewise, it is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Like many other health problems, heart disease is linked to poor diet, lack of physical activity and even stress. For more information, visit the American Heart Association's website.
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