10/30/2014 04:04 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2014

Let's Fight Fear


If you are not feeling well, the logical thing would be to call the doctor. However, as strange as it may sound, when people are fearful of a scary diagnosis, they may simply avoid making that call. At a personal level, fear can drive an otherwise sensible person to make irrational decisions. But this does not only happen at a personal level, it happens within broader social settings and even at global scale.

Fear and ignorance surrounding the Ebola epidemic are getting in the way of how we should effectively respond to the threat. This is not the first time we need to deal with a deadly disease. In fact, there are many other diseases out there that are far deadlier and easier to contract. We already know this and we could even draw from the important lessons learned from previous pandemics like SARS and the H1N1 virus. We also have valuable lessons from the unjustified stigma and discrimination that came with HIV and AIDS. Yet, the Ebola hype has simply distorted reality to a point where too often overreaction surpasses sound response.

But this does not only happen with Ebola. News reports of terror threats, migrants coming in masses and refugees crossing borders lead to similar consequences. If we look at the broader picture, the number of people dying in terror attacks is far beneath the number of people dying for example in traffic accidents. In the US, you are over 1,000 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than in a terrorist attack!

Fear is driving people to enforce quarantines, shut borders down, ground airplanes and make false assumptions based on plain media-generated ignorance. Insane measures -- fueled by fear -- translate into human rights violations and ill actions that often fail to address the very thing they are fighting. Closing the borders to Ebola-stricken countries will not protect people; it will only make the situation harder to deal with. Boosting security measures to absurd levels and profiling Muslim people as potential terrorists is certainly not working at the root of the problem. Instigating suspicions around migrants when, more often than not, they bring valuable contributions to local economies and societies is again, failing to address the real issue of integration.

It's worth noting that we can actually do something about this sort of fear. If people had better access to information, this sort of misinformation would not spread as easily. We need better education across the board and more balanced and responsible news reporting.

The bottom line is that we cannot let fear or ignorance interfere with how we respond to Ebola, terrorism, immigration or any challenge! It's time to take fear out of the equation altogether.