Americans Fear Ebola More Than Guns, and Here's Why That's Absolutely Insane
As the fight to contain the current Ebola outbreak continues, the disease is gradually permeating into American culture. Even though there have been fewer than five cases of the virus diagnosed in the U.S., Americans seem more concerned with Ebola than gun violence, a problem that is actually pervasive in this country. The Washington Post posted a short video by editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes on Tuesday that satirizes this irony. Americans' illogical fear of Ebola could be fueled by several things, but just as quickly as the panic escalated, it can just as quickly be quelled by comparing some simple statistics.
In the short cartoon, a caricature of the typical American — man wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag — is shown looking concerned, with bullets whizzing by him every second. A thought bubble appears over his head that reads, "Oh my God... " as guns continue to fire and bullets continue to fly by. Then a second thought bubble appears and he thinks, "What if I catch Ebola?"
The cartoon is meant to illustrate just how irrational the American fear of Ebola is, especially in the context of other much deadlier, much more predominant dangers, namely guns. But there's little wonder why the Ebola phobia has spread like wildfire. First of all, it's exotic. A virus disease that stemmed from infected bats in West Africa? That sounds terrifying! Second of all, most Americans are still relatively unfamiliar with it. Before this current outbreak, Ebola was known to most of us as "that disease where you bleed out of every orifice." Also terrifying. And furthermore, the media's hyping up of the disease certainly doesn't help keep us calm.
So let's take a look at some cold, hard data. These numbers will show that all this fear over Ebola is actually pretty silly, and that there's a much more deadly epidemic on American soil.
The Current Ebola Outbreak
The 2014 Ebola outbreak, which has predominantly affected the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, is the largest in the disease's history. The World Health Organization issued a statement on Saturday that the death toll had exceeded 4,900. Out of those deaths, one occurred in the U.S. So, to emphasize, one person has died of Ebola in America — not just in this outbreak, but in history.
Ebola in Its Entire History
The first case of Ebola was reported in 1976, when the disease started spreading in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, about 30 outbreaks have been reported, including the current ones in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In total, in the entire history of the disease, Ebola has killed about 6,000 people. Before we even get into the gun statistics, here's a reference point for you: about 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year.
Gun Violence Overall
More than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns each year. That is equal to around 80 deaths each day and more than three deaths per hour. Out of those deaths, about a third of them are under the age of 20.
The FBI defines a mass murderer as someone who kills four or more people (not including himself), and based on that definition, Mother Jones tracked every mass shooting in America since 1982 and found at least 69 cases. Some of these are school shootings, but many aren't. They also found that about 75 percent of the guns used in these shootings were obtained legally.
According to gun safety organization Everytown's statistics, there have been at least 87 school shootings since 2012's Sandy Hook shooting alone. The deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was the 2007 Virginia Tech incident, which claimed 33 lives.
Not so scared of Ebola now, huh? Watch the Washington Post's video below.
Images: The Washington Post, Getty Images (3)