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Ebola: Fight fears with facts

Oct. 24, 2014, 2:08 PM

Ebola is not spreading across the United States. Anxiety about the virus, however, certainly is.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 65 percent of Americans are somewhat or very concerned about the possibility of a widespread Ebola epidemic.  It is very important to take threats of disease outbreaks seriously.  It is also very important to keep an informed and reality-based perspective in order to reduce stress and anxiety around the issue.

A few facts:

  • Ebola is spread only through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
  • Those infected have come in direct contact with those who were actively ill.
  • Specific protocols are in place at Vanderbilt and other health care organizations around the country.

The licensed mental health professionals at Work/Life Connections/EAP office in Vanderbilt’s Faculty & Staff Health and Wellness recommend that people follow 3 key steps to reduce worry and concern about Ebola:

1. Obtain Factual Information about Ebola from Reliable Sources. 

2. Limit the Number and Amount of Media Coverage You Follow.

  • Fear of the unknown often causes panic. Panic, unfortunately, creates headlines and gets a lot of attention.  In addition to trusting reliable sources of information, it is important to limit the time you watch and/or listen to the almost constant stream of news about the Ebola outbreak.
  • If you already feel anxious, hearing more and more information about Ebola at every turn will only serve to exacerbate your fears.
  • Limit your intake of Ebola-related information to a few resources for a few minutes per day or week. If something significant happens that could affect you, you will hear about it.

3. Use Emotional Support Resources to Buffer Anxiety and Stress.

If you or someone you know has significant fears about Ebola, it is important to talk about it.  The Vanderbilt community offers support resources for faculty, staff, and their spouses or same-sex domestic partners, as well as to the students.

  • Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and their same-sex domestic partners or spouses can call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 936-1327 to be scheduled for a free and confidential appointment.
  • Students can contact the Psychological and Counseling Center at 322-2571, the Student Health Center at 322-2427, or the University Chaplain’s Office at 322-2457.
  • Nashville community members in need of emotional assistance can call the Crisis Intervention Center at 244-7444.

It is not wrong to have concern about Ebola, especially if a loved one or an acquaintance has traveled to West Africa in recent months or is there at this time. Those who are affected, directly, are always most vulnerable to anxiety and stress. Hearing about risk, exposure, and loss, however, can also create anxiety and fear in those who are not directly-affected.

Vanderbilt has many resources available to educate and protect its community members. It is important to draw upon that strength during any time when there is fear or doubt.

Learn more.

For more, contact office Work/Life Connections/EAP at (615) 936-1327.

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