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The Message On Ebola: Don't Panic

Dr. Edward Goodman, epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where the unnamed Ebola patient was first admitted, at a news conference on Tuesday.
LM Otero
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Following word of the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as major news organizations have weighed in. While the development is a concern, the basic message seems to be this: Don't panic.

The patient, who is being treated at a Dallas hospital, boarded a flight from Liberia and arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20. As our colleagues on the Shots blog reported, "he wasn't sick on the flight, and had no symptoms when he arrived."

NPR's Richard Harris on Morning Edition:

"There's actually one known instance where there was an actively ill patient on a flight — it was a man who flew from Liberia to Nigeria. He was sick on multiple legs of this flight, and no one else contracted Ebola on those flights. So, there's an indication that even if people are sick — actively sick — on a flight, it's not a high risk for spreading the disease."

The Washington Post:

"A major part of the public health response to the case in Dallas will be a process called contact tracing. Because you can only become infected by Ebola through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus and is exhibiting symptoms, health officials need to identify every single person who has come in contact with the Dallas patient since Wednesday, when he became symptomatic.

"It's unclear exactly how many people the patient may have encountered between then and Sunday, when he was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and placed in isolation."


"The patient being treated in Texas flew from one of the Ebola hot zones — Liberia — to Dallas.

"But his fellow passengers aren't thought to be at risk because you can only contract Ebola through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who's actively sick with it.

"It's not like a cold or the flu, which can be spread before symptoms show up. And it doesn't spread through the air.

" 'It's very unlikely that (Ebola victims) would be able to spread the disease to fellow passengers,' said Stephen Monroe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."


"There's little chance that a single infection could trigger an out-of-control chain of contagion across this continent, like a terrifying Hollywood movie. The disease is not spread through the air, like a cold or flu, but through contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick or someone who has died of the virus.

"As health experts have stressed repeatedly, the U.S. health care system is infinitely more developed than that in West Africa's urban centers and rural villages. Sanitation is better. Communication is better. Treatment is better. And most Americans' funeral and burial customs are nothing like the practices there that have contributed to Ebola's exponential spread."

The Dallas Morning News:

"There is a not-so-fine line between fear and panic. Sometimes, in our darkest hours, we trample over that line.

"Fear's natural. It's a primal response to danger, both real and perceived. It explains why I've never wanted to swim with sharks or scale the Himalayas.

"Panic is an extreme extension of fear, a knee-jerk, irrational reaction. It's what happens when someone yells fire in a crowded, pitch-black theater.

"Panicking tends to make any situation worse."


"[Something] that's been missed in the Ebola news coverage: Several U.S. hospitals already have experience treating Ebola.

"They know how to see it. They know how to treat it. And they know how to beat it.

"And that wisdom can be contagious."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.