Nigeria, the west African industrial powerhouse with a population of 174 million, which fired 16,000 doctors as Ebola extended into its borders… is now completely free of Ebola. Yes, you read that correctly: Ebola has not been seen for over 2 “infection periods” of 21 days, which is the timeframe in which an infected person would come down with symptoms if infected.
This wasn’t some kind of magical feat or miracle: Ebola is, like all members of the Filoviridae family, relatively easy to contain if organized health services exist and the population accepts that the disease is real, and goes for treatment if they come down with symptoms or into close contact with someone who is infected. Ebola is not some hellish human made virus: it is a “thread-like” virus that originates from bats and which you should honestly not fear (if this all sounds new to you, please read my 6 Things Everyone Should Know About Ebola, where I cover the basic facts about the virus and debunk a few widespread myths). It is nowhere near as infectious as often described and is most certainly not airborne.
Ebola is not even as deadly as being described, with Nigeria’s health system being advanced enough to experience only an approximate 25% death rate and few infections (which mirrors the infection-to-death ratio of other Filoviridae members, like Marburg, during previous outbreaks in Europe).
In nations that have less developed health services, and more rampant conspiracy theories relating to the virus, the rate of infection and death is far higher. In areas where people believe that health-care workers from the Red Cross are spreading the virus, or that it is simply fake: infection and death continue unabated, places where people are less likely to get treated when infected and the dead lay around continuing to infect others who come into contact with the corpse or the bed sheets.
If Nigeria can effectively contain Ebola while experiencing under a dozen deaths: what good reason could anyone in a first world nation have of fearing the virus? The answer: absolutely none. You are in more danger of being infected, and of dying, from whatever influenza strain emerges this year than you have of being infected with Ebola. Influenza kills roughly 10,000 people every year in Germany, and roughly 50,000 every year in the United States. Unlike Ebola, the flu (Influenza) really is airborne, highly infectious, and because it infects so many: much more likely to mutate into something nasty.
Before you run out and clamor for a vaccine against the flu (or Ebola, for that matter), you have to remember that no vaccine is even 90% effective. Flu vaccines are associated with an approximately 60-80% reduction in emergency medical care for the flu, but as someone who has never needed medical care for the flu: I would not necessarily advocate for it. Maintaining a strong “baseline immunity” through a healthy diet and sufficient sleep is probably your best defense against every microbial invader you may have to face, and requires significantly less industrial infrastructure to maintain on a yearly basis.
Do not worry, and do not let yourself get worked into a frenzy by any fear mongering (dis)information. Some people get sick, some then die: that is part of the risk of being alive. One of the conditions of our survival is that we will one day die, and we certainly do not reduce the chances of this by worrying too much about constantly evolving pathogens. If you want to pick something reasonable to worry about: worry about the state of the biosphere.