WASHINGTON -- The first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil may have died Wednesday, but health experts say Americans don't need to stock up on survival gear.
"I really can’t see that that’s an appropriate or reasonable response," Arthur Reingold, Head of Epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. "It’s reasonable for people to be concerned, though I would argue they should be more concerned about the dreadful situation in West Africa."
"The fact is we don’t have transmission on the Ebola virus here in the community," Reingold said. "I just can’t see why anybody would want to spend money on those kinds of things in response to concern about Ebola."
Nonetheless, fears about the spread of Ebola have led to a spike in sales of disease protection supplies. LifeSecure, a Chicago-based emergency preparedness company, has sold more than 100 "Extended Infection Protection" emergency supply kits since officials confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. last week, according to owner David Scott. Typically, LifeSecure sells just a handful of such kits per week.
"People are being reminded that there is a chance something that’s on another continent can make it here in one flight," Scott told HuffPost. "Sooner or later, these kinds of supplies will have to be used generally by the entire population."
Government officials and health experts say such an outbreak is extremely unlikely. But Bloomberg News reported that LifeSecure's infection kits, along with simpler items like preparedness books and surgical masks, have been flying off the shelves.
Survivalists or "doomsday preppers" are also selling advice. For $2.99, Kindle owners can own "Ebola: Natural Remedies + Government Conspiracies," an e-book published Sept. 4 that accuses the U.S. and the CDC of knowingly allowing the deadly virus to come to America. (In August, two Americans infected abroad had been brought home so they could recover in American hospitals.)
There has also been an uptick in purchases of Ebola-themed merchandise such as neckties, earrings, and coffee mugs, according to Adweek. Consumers can also purchase plush toys shaped like the microscopic image of the virus. Items like these have been available for years, Adweek notes, but their sales have increased in recent months.
Ebola has infected more than 7,400 people in West Africa and more than 3,400 have died, according to the World Health Organization. On Wednesday, Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted the illness in Liberia and became the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., died in a Dallas hospital. Officials said yesterday they're monitoring the several dozen people with whom Duncan had contact and so far, none have shown symptoms. To date, nobody has been infected in America.
Most Americans aren't worried they'll be exposed to Ebola, according to a Pew survey. Fifty-eight percent of respondents are confident the federal government can prevent an outbreak, while just 32 percent are either very or somewhat concerned.
Meanwhile, charitable organizations like the American Red Cross and UNICEF report that they've received less from individual donors than they've gotten in response to previous crises, according to CNN.