As I’ve said often, there are two crises within the Ebola crisis:
- The Ebola crisis itself; and
Fearbola is a real and serious risk (as Emory University Hospital experienced first-hand) and it stems from a lack of truly understanding what Ebola is and how it’s spread. Though the CDC is attempting to educate the public, I continue to see first-hand that their efforts are falling short.
Flu season may heighten the risk of Fearbola
It’s important for healthcare organizations and professionals to realize that, with the flu season upon us, and with Ebola symptoms being very common to flu symptoms, the flu season may see an increase in:
- Emergency room walk-ins (with people panicked that they have Ebola).
- Calls to 911, clinics and hotlines.
- Worry, fear and panic that Ebola is spreading.
What can be done to prevent Fearbola from escalating during flu season?
1) Hospital attendants and first responders MUST be prepared and educated
I’ve personally spoken with far too many hospital attendants who feel inadequately prepared to manage Ebola if it shows up within their hospital. This is a problem for both the Ebola crisis and Fearbola. This means that better and more adequate training and education needs to be going on within each and every hospital. Additionally, now that we know that the seasonal flu may present additional challenges, the following needs to be added to this training and education:
Every single hospital attendant (from nurses to janitors) and first responder needs to understand the difference between Ebola and the flu. They also need to understand that the flu season may see an increase in walk-ins and Ebola-based concerns, and they need to be prepared to:
- Calm fears and worry;
- Not succumb to this very fear and worry themselves;
- Adequately answer questions;
- Clearly and quickly identify between Ebola symptoms and flu symptoms – and know the proper protocols for screening and escalation.
If this isn’t done, we risk seeing another scenario like the one we saw in Texas with Thomas Eric Duncan. I can’t express how important it is to prevent another situation like that from happening again.
2) It’s more important than ever to educate the public
With this increased risk on Fearbola, it is critically important that the general public be educated on:
- The difference between the flu and Ebola. This means that people need to know that Ebola and the common flu have very similar symptoms. They also need help in determining between the two.
- How Ebola is truly spread. People need to understand that if they have not been in contact with the bodily fluid of an Ebola patient in full-blown fever, the symptoms they may be experiencing are most probably that of the flu.
Who’s responsibility is it to educate people and prevent Fearbola?
Preventing Fearbola is a serious and accomplishable task. However, it will NOT happen on its own. It is up to every single hospital, healthcare practitioner, health commission, ministry of health, etc. to work in collaboration with their respective municipalities and local government agencies to prevent and control Fearbola within their community. I can’t stress this enough. Proactive action needs to be taken in every single community across North America – and beyond – and this proactive action needs to be taken NOW. Quite frankly, it’s worrisome that we aren’t yet seeing more of this.
Your next step
If you need help or would like to discuss the proactive strategies that you can take to prevent and manage Fearbola within your community, please contact Agnes + Day. My team would be happy to have this important conversation with you.
Infographic from the CDC: Flu or Ebola?
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.