The Spread of Fear-bola: Why Ebola Hysteria is the Real Epidemic

October 23, 2014   •  Posted in: 

The hype surrounding Ebola has given way to a new epidemic: Fear-bola. Fear-bola refers to the irrational fear of Ebola that has rapidly spread across the United States. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly two thirds of Americans are concerned about an epidemic outbreak in the U.S. Another recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 45% of people are afraid that they or a family member will contract Ebola. 

Although there have only been nine documented cases of Ebola in the United States in 2014, resulting in one death, the fear of an Ebola pandemic in this country is widespread. For comparison, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, on average, over 26,000 people died annually in the United States from seasonal influenza, the flu, from 1976 to 2007.


Why the Hype?

So why the epic hysteria over Ebola, which must be contracted through human to human transmission, when the common, airborne flu is killing thousands of people every year?

The answer is multifaceted. For starters, the media has added enormous coverage to the topic. The more coverage, the more sensational some of the reports become to break through the clutter. The overabundance of news articles featuring Ebola, combined with celebrities like Glenn Beck cautioning people that Ebola could be spread to an airborne transmission, and Chris Brown tweeting conspiracy theories about Ebola being used for population control, have added to the unfounded hysteria.  

Additionally, the “fear of the unknown” is at play. Many people are frightened by the sheer fact that Ebola originated in Africa, and that it’s seemingly a foreign virus. A similar fear was experienced during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003, which originated in China.

There is also no known cure for Ebola, and the symptoms of the virus can be gruesome. Because there is no cure, we as people feel less in control and potentially victimized by the illness.

Finally, changing and sometimes false information can contribute to widespread feelings of insecurity and fear. The CDC has recently altered protocol and issued new guidelines for the care and prevention of Ebola, which can leave people feeling uneasy. And certainly false information about how the virus is spread can cause people to jump to rapid, unfounded conclusions.


What’s wrong with Fear-bola?

Some people argue that the over-the-top coverage and discussion about Ebola will help stop the spreading of the virus. While there may be elements of truth in this, and education is certainly important for mitigating health concerns, there are also very real, negative repercussions to Fear-bola.

Irrational fear of Ebola has caused people and organizations in the United States to act very strangely, sometimes causing unnecessary pain and hardship on others. As a result of Fear-bola, a sick person was quarantined in an airplane bathroom for an entire flight, Nigerian students have been rejected from college, a bus driver was quarantined because someone on his bus yelled “I have Ebola”, and parents have pulled their kids out of school because their teacher visited South Africa. In another incident, a high school soccer player in Pennsylvania, whose family is from Guinea, was taunted during a soccer game until the player was left in tears and the coaches quit. None of the aforementioned people had Ebola. 

Moreover, Fear-bola can cause pain and anxiety within an individual’s life. If you already have worry and stress, Fear-bola can become yet another layer. For these people who are already struggling with various stressors or anxieties, buying into the Fear-bola epidemic can aggravate their symptoms and cause additional struggle. The Fear-bola situations listed above prove that fear can have a ripple effect on our rational thinking. It is therefore crucial to address Fear-bola and minimize its spread.


How can we stop Fear-bola?

Ebola is certainly a deadly virus, and normal precautions need to be taken. However, for the majority of people in the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words ring most true: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” 

Here are a few ways to combat Fear-bola:

  1. Don’t jump to rapid conclusions without gathering adequate information.
  2. Make sure to check facts with reliable and reputable sources.
  3. Maintain perspective, and recognize that the number of people with Ebola in the United States is statistically insignificant.
  4. Maintain healthy lifestyle patterns, and focus on the things within your immediate control.
  5. Take time to relax and distress from your day through exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones and friends.
  6. Finally, seek medical support if Fear-bola or other anxieties are affecting your daily functioning or causing you physical discomfort. The highly-trained staff at The Center • A Place of HOPE can answer your questions about anxiety treatment and healing. If you are suffering from Fear-bola or struggling to manage the stress and anxieties in your life, call them today at 888-771-5166.

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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