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According to my Facebook and twitter feeds this week, everyone seems to be in a panic. Too many of you are worried that if the respiratory virus plaguing the Midwest doesn't get you, Ebola will. I'm going to try and calm you down.

John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics
According to my Facebook and twitter feeds this week, everyone seems to be in a PANIC! I'm going to try and calm you down. This is Healthcare Triage News.


This week's first story is for more than a few of my worried friends out there. There's an outbreak of a respiratory virus in the Midwest that has a lot of you panicking. I'm not surprised at that, given the tone that much of the media has taken while reporting about it. To catch the few of you unaware up to speed, there have been hundreds of children hospitalized with a bad respiratory infection over the last few weeks. It's caused by EVD-68, which is a form of enterovirus.

For the uninitiated, enteroviruses are a group of germs that cause colds and respiratory disease, mostly in kids, often in the summer months. Once in a while, they can cause a case of viral meningitis, as they did not long ago for a certain internet star and author who may be known to some of you.

In this case it's affecting kids pretty severely. A more than usual number are needing to be hospitalized. Those with asthma, or other underlying respiratory diseases, are being hit the hardest.

There's no vaccine for this, and no special precautions that you should take. I say "special" because you all should be washing your hands frequently, especially before eating! So if you aren't, start doing that! But if you're around a person with enterovirus a lot, i.e., a family member, it's hard to avoid it. The good news is that this isn't usually a deadly virus. Way, way, way more people will die from influenza this year and every year, even in the United States, than will even be severely ill with enterovirus. It's scary, but there's just no reason to panic.

Speaking of panic, Ebola continues to be a source of it. A third doctor has become sick with it, and there's a new study out there that talks about how the disease could spread outside of west Africa. In a paper that should have been published in a journal called "PANIC!", which I'm absolutely going to begin to publish, a group of researchers modeled how Ebola could escape by infected people on planes and get to countries all over the world. The country in this study most likely to see an Ebola outbreak was Ghana. Number two was the United Kingdom. France was number seven. The United States was thirteenth. PANIC!!

But, just as I told you before with respect to enterovirus, don't let the media oversell this. Ebola is terrible, and this is the worst outbreak of Ebola we've ever seen. But way, way more people die of HIV-AIDS in Africa each year. Way, way, way more people die of diarrheal illnesses in Africa each year. And there's still a pretty low chance that the disease will get out of west Africa.

But what if it did? Odds are, there'd still be a pretty minimal impact in the developed world. Unlike many resource-strapped settings, we'd probably catch it pretty quickly. Anyone who had a flu-like or diarrheal illness who had been in an Ebola-affected country recently would be quarantined pretty fast. And people with Ebola aren't contagious until they're symptomatic. So sick people get quarantined. People they might have come into contact with will be found, and they will be watched for symptoms closely. They, too, wouldn't be contagious as long as they were still not ill. After that, it's mostly keeping sick people hospitalized until they're not a danger to anyone else. In most developed countries, that's not difficult to do. Ebola is a terrible disease that's killing a lot of people in west Africa, but it's not that much of a threat to people outside that area.

There are plenty of things to panic about. These are not two of them. Normal precautions are fine. Go about your lives.