- Ebola, the serious, often fatal disease spread by interaction with the blood or fluids of a symptomatic infected person, has been making headlines across the country. And for good reason: this is the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The public is asking questions and wondering if they're at risk.
- But the truth is, unless you live in West Africa, where the latest Ebola outbreak has been focused, or if you are a health worker who works with Ebola patients, you're probably safe.
- Ebola might be making headlines, but in terms of health risks for you today, it's barely a blip on the radar. Plenty of common issues — that you probably face daily — pose more immediate health risks.
1. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- They're in your meat. Health providers prescribe 250 million courses of them annually. Antimicrobial agents, or antibiotics, have been, for many decades, the things that make us better. But because we use antibiotics so often — and often incorrectly — the bacteria that can make you sick have adapted to resist our medication. That means they're harder to treat. So now, more than 2 million Americans every year become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, from skin infections to mutated strains of sexually transmitted diseases.
- But there are steps people can take to stem the rise of antibiotic resistant microbes. The biggest one is using antibiotics to treat only the illnesses they will actually work on. (Hint: Viruses aren't among them.) Colds are caused by a virus, so antibiotics won't cure you. Ditto for the flu. Patients and doctors should talk about the best ways to treat illnesses together.
2. Severe weather
- Climate change is already happening, and has all kinds of effects on health. Hotter, longer summers can result in heat stroke. They can lead to droughts, which limit water to people and crops, thereby causing food shortages.
- Extreme weather events, from storms to flooding, can result in injuries and death. They can also worsen chronic health conditions, both directly and by cutting off access to health services. As temperatures change, such events will increase.