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In context: 9 viruses - and some bacteria - more common in the U.S. than Ebola

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The news that a second Dallas nurse has contracted Ebola from Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan has shifted U.S. leaders into a higher state of alert, with President Obama urging "aggressive" action.

Obama canceled travel plans for a second straight day Thursday to remain in Washington overseeing the government's response to Ebola's spread.

So while no one is underplaying the gravity of the outbreak, some health officials are urging people to put the latest headlines in context. They note that a number of other deadly viruses are a part of daily life in the U.S. – and should command our attention, too.

“Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told PBS Newshour.

PBS, CNN and Live Science have listed some of the viruses and bacteria that should worry us more than Ebola:


Spreads through droplets from infected people's coughs and sneezes. Infected around 75,000 people in the 2012-13 flu season.


Spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches a surface that is then touched by others. Typically infects around 10 to 15 million people a year. This year, Enterovirus D68 has killed at least two children.


Spreads from an infected person or from contaminated food, water or surfaces. Infects about 19-21 million people a year, killing 570 to 800 people annually.

Hepatitis C

Spreads through infected needles. The virus sickened around 16,500 people in 2011.

Respiratory syncytial virus infection, or RSV

Spreads through coughs and sneezes. CNN notes that RSV can be severe for seniors — about 14,000 people over 65 have died from it every year.


Spreads from infected-animal saliva to people via a bite or broken skin. It kills around two people each year in the U.S., and has a high fatality rate, LiveScience notes: Just three people in this country are known to have survived without receiving the rabies vaccine after exposure to the virus.


Spreads mainly through sex or sharing needles with someone with HIV. Infects about 50,000 people a year, and has killed approximately 640,000 people in the U.S. since 1981.

Mosquito-borne viruses

Spreads through the bite of an infected mosquito. West Nile virus, to name one such virus, has infected more than 30,000 people in the U.S. since 1999. Of those, nearly 13,000 have become seriously ill and more than 1,200 have died.


Spreads largely between unvaccinated people, including the babies of unvaccinated mothers. So far this year, there have been more than 600 measles cases, nearly all of them children, PBS reports.

Whooping cough or pertussis

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is caused by a bacteria. In 2012, 48,277 cases were reported in the U.S.,  the largest number since 1955, PBS reports.

Drug-resistant bacteria, or MRSA

Drug-resistant bacteria, or MRSA, is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S., PBS reports. More than 2 million people in the U.S. each year develop an infection from it, and according to the CDC, at least 23,000 people die from those infections every year.

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