Ebola: Still the Scariest Virus Out There?

According to HuffPost there are 5 viruses, that are scarier than Ebola. The Ebola virus has now killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa. Although the mortality rate of the most recent outbreak isn’t as high as in previous events, it’s still the case that most people who become infected with Ebola will not survive. (The mortality rate is about 60 percent for the current outbreak, compared with 90 percent in the past, according to the National Institutes of Health.)

5-Viruses-That-Are-Scarier-Than-Ebola

But despite this somber prognosis, health experts in the United States aren’t particularly worried about the threat of Ebola in this countryor in other developed countries.

“I see Ebola as a significant threat in the specific regions that it has been identified in, certainly central and west Africa,” said Cecilia Rokusek, a public health expert with Nova Southeastern University’s Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness in Florida. “But in my opinion, it’s not an imminent threat for those in the United States.”

Indeed, other viruses pose a larger threat to U.S. citizens, according to Rokusek.

Although some of these viruses have far lower mortality rates than that of Ebola, they are more prevalent in developed nations, and kill more people annually than Ebola does. Here are five viruses that are just as dangerous (if not more so) than Ebola:

Rabies

Over the past 100 years, rabies has declined significantly as a public health threat in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately two people now die yearly in the United States from this virus, which is transmitted to people through saliva when they are bitten by infected animals, such as dogs or bats.

People who know they have been bitten by an animal should receive the rabies vaccine, which prevents infection by the virus, according to the CDC. But, especially in the case of bat bites, people may not always realize they have been bitten.

And rabies has one of the highest fatality rates of any virus; only three people in the United States are known to have ever survived the disease without receiving the vaccine after exposure to the virus.

Still, the disease remains a greater threat in other areas of the world than in the United States. Approximately 55,000 people die of rabies every year in Africa and Asia, according to the WHO.

HIV

Though the number of annual deaths related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has declined in recent years, an estimated 1.6 million people worldwide died of HIV and autoimmune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) related causes in 2012, according to the WHO. The virus attacks a person’s immune cells and weakens the immune system over time, making it very difficult for the infected individual to fight off other diseases.

About 15,500 people with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010 in the United States, according to the CDC. In total, an estimated 650,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States since the disease was discovered in 1981. An estimated 36 million people have died worldwide from the epidemic.

Today, people with HIV do live longer than they used to, a trend that coincides with the increased availability of antiretroviral therapy, as well as the decline in new infections since the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1997. However, no cure for HIV exists.

Influenza

The flu may not sound very scary, but it kills far more people every year than Ebola does. The exact number of people who die each year from seasonal flu virus is the subject of much debate, but the CDC puts the average number of annual deaths in the United States somewhere between 3,000 and 49,000.

The large variation in yearly deaths arises because many flu deaths are not reported as such, so the CDC relies on statistical methods to estimate the number. Another reason for this wide range is that annual flu seasons vary in severity and length, depending on what influenza viruses are most prominent. In years when influenza A (H3N2) viruses are prominent, death rates are typically more than double what they are in seasons when influenza A (H1N1) or influenza B viruses predominate, according to the CDC.

A highly contagious virus, influenza sickens far more people than it kills, with an estimated 3 million to 5 million people becoming seriously ill yearly from influenza viruses. Worldwide, the flu causes an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite the relatively low mortality rate of the virus, public health professionals and doctors recommend annual flu shots to keep the risk of complications from influenza at bay.

“Healthy people should get their vaccines every year,” Rokusek told Live Science. “Studies have shown that the flu vaccine is an effective preventative measure.”

But flu vaccines, which offer immunity from influenza A and B viruses, do not protect against other forms of influenza, which can arise when the virus undergoes genetic changes. New strains of the flu result in higher than average mortality rates globally. The most recent influenza pandemic, the “swine flu” or H1N1 pandemic, killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people globally during 2009 and 2010, according to the CDC.

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