Is the Flu Deadlier Than Ebola?

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By Jill Kapinus

Despite the Ebola health crisis in West Africa and its small scale spread to the United States and other countries - you may be surprized to hear the flu is deadly, perhaps more so than Ebola!. Time magazine even named the healthcare workers who have treated Ebola patients—some of whom subsequently contracted and recovered from the disease—as its 2014 Person of the Year.[1] Hospitals and healthcare professionals all over the country scrambled to develop resources and procedural training for treating Ebola patients. But there is a more familiar and far more prevalent disease that affects millions across the United States every year. You may have even had it yourself. It’s the Flu.

Though Flu shots are advertised during peak season, the risks of the Flu do not usually reach the heights of the Ebola panic that permeated national news. But while it is important for healthcare workers to train for an epidemic such as Ebola, the Flu presents a real and serious threat that medical professionals, including medical assistants and other healthcare workers, also need to prepare for. We’ve put together some facts that you may not know about the Flu and why it is just as important to work towards preventing Flu contractions as it is to prepare for Ebola.

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Is the Flu Deadly?

The Flu—also known as influenza[2]—can be considered more lethal than Ebola when you look at the number of people it affects. Each year, three to five million people are infected internationally and as many as 500,000 people die from the Flu worldwide. You may not think of it as being so lethal, but the Flu can be deadly when the young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are exposed.[3]

Ebola is far less common but is lethal in almost half of the patients who contract it. But of the nine patients who were treated in the U.S., only one died from the disease.[4]

Symptoms of the Ebola vs. Flu

These two diseases share some symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches. The Flu presents some symptoms that are largely absent in Ebola patients, such as cough, sore throat, and a stuffy or runny nose. Ebola patients are likely to have unexplained bruising or bleeding, extreme fatigue, severe weakness, accompanied with vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Those infected with the Flu usually show symptoms within two days of exposure, whereas Ebola can present symptoms anywhere within a window of two to twenty-one days from the time of exposure.[5]

Because these two diseases both often start with a fever, healthcare professionals and medical assistants need to be very skillfully trained in order to help determine what symptoms a patient is suffering from and how to properly follow procedure.

How to Treat and Prevent the Flu

While the general public should avoid close contact with those infected, healthcare professionals and medical assistants are needed on the front lines to treat those patients who are sick. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that anyone over six months old get a Flu shot. In addition, it is also important to wash your hands regularly, stay home when you’re sick, and disinfect public surfaces regularly.[6]

Whether preparing for Flu season or receiving training for a unique epidemic like Ebola, healthcare professionals and medical assistants are often an important asset to patients in need. If you’re interested in pursuing a career  in healthcare, you may want to earn a degree, certificate or diploma in medical assisting, a career that’s growing much faster than average in America.[7]

Are you looking for careers in the medical field? Then check out eLearners multitude of free listings of online degrees and diplomas!


[1]time.com/time-person-of-the-year-ebola-fighters-choice/  [2]cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm [3]businessinsider.com/afp-flu-or-ebola-us-hospitals-prepare-for-a-confusing-season-2014-10#ixzz3JKvJdEeF [4]cnn.com/2014/04/11/health/ebola-fast-facts [5]cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/is-it-flu-or-ebola.pdf [6]cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm [7].bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm

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