Ebola: Putting the threat in perspective

With thousands of deaths caused by Ebola in the last several months, it is no surprise many fear the disease. However, Ebola might not be as dangerous as you think. Most people outside of West Africa are at extremely low-risk of contracting the disease. Of the 17,942 total cases of this outbreak, only 34 have occured outside of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That is less than 0.2% of cases. The outbreaks in Nigeria, Senegal and Spain, which accounted for 22 of these 34 cases, have been declared over according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that the last patient isolated for potentially having Ebola was confirmed not to have the disease 42 days ago. That time period is twice the length of the disease's incubation period. This means the disease can no longer spread.

Cases per country:

As of December 2014, the U.S. had 4 reported cases of Ebola. The vast majority (99.8%) of cases were in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Deaths per year:

6,388 people had died of Ebola as of December 7, 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Fever kills more than 4 times that number of people per year. Measles kills more than 19 times that number annually.

Rate of spread:

R0 refers to how many people each infected person is likely to spread a disease to. Ebola's R0 is relatively low. It is only half that of HIV. However, R0 is calculated for how long a person is contagious. Because this time period is much shorter for Ebola, the disease still spreads faster than HIV, which has a longer period of being contagious.