Ebola spreading rate compared to other diseases

Illustration for article titled Ebola spreading rate compared to other diseases

Many people are freaking out about ebola, but the fact is that there's no reason to panic because it spreads too slowly. Way slower than other infectious diseases. The graphic above shows it clearly: While a measles patient can infect a maximum of 18 people on average, an ebola patient can only infect two.

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That's what basic R0 means—the "maximum number of people who can catch the disease from one sick person, on average, in an outbreak" when "everyone in the population is susceptible to the disease." This is also known as reproduction number or R nought.

Statistically, this means that the virus can easily be stopped in a highly developed country like the United States, which is why the CDC acted so cool about that patient in Texas. Sure, like any other deadly infectious disease, it's something you don't take lightly. But even while that patient was in contact with many people for days before getting quarantined, it's very difficult for the virus to pass from person to person. The measles or the flu pass easily because the viruses are airborne. But ebola requires actual extensive contact with "bodily fluids like blood or vomit."

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So take a look at the graphic again, breath, and relax. And try not to touch any blood or vomit. Just in case.


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DISCUSSION

I started getting annoyed by all the fear slinging with this outbreak until that cameraman contracted it. From what I can tell, the reporters covering the outbreak in Africa are generally some of the most protected, informed, and less likely to have direct contact with the virus.

I'm sure there's plenty of scientists out there that know way more about this than I do, but I find it hard to believe that it's easier to contract HIV than this strain of Ebola...