Travel-Ready M.D. Sarah Kohl explains why our brains tell us to worry about Ebola virus when, in fact, it’s another virus we should really be worried about:

I am really frustrated that you, my patients, are spending a lot of time worrying about rare diseases, all the while missing opportunities to protect yourselves from common viral illnesses. Especially ones that can kill you.

Yes, KILL you.

But it’s really not your fault. Your brain is miscalculating your odds of impending doom.

It’s so hard to communicate real risk vs. perceived risk. What does that mean anyway?

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to new things and to be cautious about things we don’t know much about. Usually this is a good idea, since unfamiliar things can hurt us, so it’s best to stay on your toes.

However, this increased attention to unfamiliar threats can also be a problem. We can focus too much attention on something new, but rare, and forget to worry about what really matters–things that are common and dangerous.


Dr. Kohl focuses her attention on the clear and present danger:

  • When offered the flu vaccine most people accept either the injection or inhaled variety. However, quite a few choose not to get protected, even though it’s hands down the best value in medicine. For around $25 you can protect yourself from a virus that’s readily spread through the air, kills perfectly healthy people and is easily prevented by annual immunization.


  • Infection with influenza is quite common and deadly. I know this all too well. A young, healthy woman in our town died last year from influenza. Flu infects between 5-20% of the population and kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people each year in the USA. In fact 55 perfectly healthy children died from influenza last season.
    So prevention would help a lot of people and save a lot of lives.


  • Compare Influenza to Ebola and it becomes clear our real risk from death from a viral infection in the USA is from influenza. To date, nine people have been infected with Ebola, but only two contracted the illness inside the USA (while caring for a patient sick with Ebola). One person has died of Ebola he contracted in Liberia.


The bottom line is simple:

Evaluate your real risk of Ebola… slim to none if you live in the USA.

If you want to worry about a viral illness, focus on influenza, and get protected with a vaccine. It’s easy; immunizations are effective and widely available.


Read more of Dr. Sarah Kohl’s Travel-Ready M.D. blog here.

Call our offices today to schedule a flu vaccine for your children today.