There have only been three confirmed Ebola cases in the U.S., compared to over 4,000 deaths in Liberia, but exaggerated fears and misinformation may cause greater harm to Americans than Ebola itself, say medical experts.
"If we have a bad flu season, that could create a considerable emotional contagion," James Halpern, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz, told MedicineNet.com.
Halpern says that Americans have difficulty determining actual risk and their emotional reactions often override science and logic.
"We're more afraid of snakes than cigarettes," added Halpern. "There's going to be a lot of misinformation and rumors going around."
"I think there's been a gross overreaction on the part of the media," stated Gerard Jacobs, of the University of South Dakota's Disaster Mental Health Institute.
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MediaMatters.org recently reported that conservative media outlets, such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, have tried to generate hysteria over Ebola and claim the deadly virus is being engineered by President Obama (video below).
"The flu is a much greater threat to the American public than Ebola is," Jacobs added.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal flu and pneumonia killed 53,826 Americans in 2009-10.
Jacobs advised Americans to go to the CDC website for information.
"Their focus is the health of the American public," added Jacobs. "They're scientists, not politicians."
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However, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) advised Americans on Sunday not to listen to medical "experts," but rather go with his "common sense."
Sen. Cruz also dismissed the CDC as being paid off by President Obama to say what he wants them to.
George Kapalka, a professor of psychological counseling at Monmouth University in West Long Beach, N.J., told MedicineNet.com that Americans need to do a "reality check."
"You might be able to tell yourself, 'My personal risk is so low, living in fear is not worth it,'" said Kapalka.