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Tackling Ebola anxiety: Why facts must conquer fear

Concern over world news is normal but fear that causes us to freeze up needs to be put in check


By Stephanie Weichert, C1 Contributor

As of this morning, America has two confirmed cases of Ebola in living patients on U.S. soil.

But the public is getting mixed messages.

In a Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, former Medical Director of Samaritan's Purse Ebola Care Center in Monrovia, Liberia, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations during a hearing on Ebola on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In a Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, former Medical Director of Samaritan's Purse Ebola Care Center in Monrovia, Liberia, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations during a hearing on Ebola on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

President Barack Obama issued this statement: “In other words, if they don't have symptoms, they're not contagious.” However, he goes on to say that the CDC is conducting, “contact tracing, so that anybody who may have had contact with someone -- even if it was incidental contact, even if they weren't showing symptoms -- being able to identify who those individuals are and make sure that they are then being monitored in a way that allows us to make certain that the disease does not spread further.”

Does that mean even the government doesn’t believe that “incidental contact” can’t cause the transmission of the deadly virus? Is this a mixed message or are these really just extensive precautions put in place to ensure public safety?

Fox News issued a report today about the known cases of Ebola in America (a timeline of the virus can be found on the ABC News website.) Here is a summary of facts about the people who are alive and have either been successfully treated and discharged from the hospital or are currently undergoing a successful treatment plan for Ebola:

Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, nurses – both in stable condition

  • Nina Pham, 26 and Amber Joy Vinson, 29, nurses who cared for the late Thomas Eric Duncan have tested positive for Ebola. Pham is being moved to a Maryland hospital that specializes in the deadly virus and Vinson has been transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. According to an NPR news report, both cared for Duncan at times without appropriate protective gear. According to the NPR report, although she is starting to feel well, Pham is still in isolation. She is reported to be in “good condition” and Vinson is deemed “clinically stable.”
  • Vinson is in an isolation unit in one of four hospitals prepared with biocontainment units for an infectious disease such as Ebola. According to a report by USA Today, Pham received plasma from Brantly who, following his recovery, carried antibodies against Ebola. Due to laws around patient confidentiality, no details about Vinson’s treatment plan have been released to the public.

Ashoka Mukpo, cameraman - recovering

  • A freelance American cameraman, Ashoka Mukpo, 33, was diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia and went to the Nebraska Medical Center for treatment and is recovering after receiving brincidofovir and plasma from Ebola survivor Dr. Ken Brantly. The Nebraska Medical Center is one of the four hospitals with a biocontainment unit and has successfully treated both Mukpo and missionary Nancy Writebol.

Unidentified patient - undetermined

  • An unidentified man who contracted the virus in Sierra Leone is being treated at Emory University hospital in Atlanta and is also recovering. Patient confidentiality laws prevent news – even successful treatment plans from being released to the public.

Dr. Rick Sacra, Dr. Kent Brantly, and missionary Nancy Writebol - recovered

  • The three Americans, Dr. Rick Sacra, 51; Dr. Kent Brantly, 33; and missionary Nancy Writebol, 59 who contracted the virus while working for Christian missionary organizations in Liberia and were flown to the U.S. for treatment, have all fully recovered after receiving experimental treatment. Brantly and Writebol were treated at Emory University Hospital with an experimental drug named ZMapp. According to a story by the Washington Post, Sacra was the first patient to receive plasma from Brantly.

Feeling like the traditional news sources are giving limited information, Americans have started looking to any news source for additional information. However, not all news is accurate. For example, according to Snopes and KTEMNewsradio 14, the site stating that Jack Phillis and four of his family members living in Purdon, Texas have tested positive for the disease is a complete hoax.

Stories like these further cause panic.

Panic is defined as an onset of a sudden sensation of fear, preventing logical reasoning and replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation. The news is focusing on the possible exposure and igniting more panic rather than focusing on the fact that all but one person who has been treated for Ebola in the United States has either recovered or is in recovery.

So, the question remains: where will you chose to focus your attention?

Concern over world news is normal. However fear that causes us to freeze up or begin checking the news incessantly needs to be put in check. Fear can cause irrational thoughts and behavior. Fear breeds mistrust. Fear looks for fearful thoughts to be confirmed.

What can we do?

There is a difference between checking the news and becoming obsessed with it. Choose to focus on the positive. The patients living with Ebola have been carefully treated with multiple experimental treatments. America has hospitals set up to deal with infectious diseases. Stay grounded and don’t borrow problems of what could happen “if.” Worrying about what could happen will not actually prepare you if the worst does happen.

About the author

Stephanie WeichertStephanie Weichert is a certified Life and Executive Coach, Strategic Interventionist, published author and speaker. She writes, “As a life coach, I help people live happier lives that align with their purpose and their deepest identity. Bottom line is, I believe people should feel good about their life, who they are and feel successful about what they do to contribute to the world around them. I hope to help people create subtle shifts in their perspective in order to create maximum impact and positive momentum in their life.” Stephanie has performed life-coaching workshops for the Tennessee Army National Guard Warrior Fit Camp program, the Kentucky Army National Guard Operation Immersion course, Tennessee Army National Guard's Children Attitude Motivation Program (CAMP), canfitpro and Empower Fitness Conferences.

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