UB experts can discuss Ebola outbreak

Ebola virus.

Release Date: October 20, 2014 This content is archived.

“One key to reducing fear and stress is to have accurate knowledge about Ebola. ”
Larry Hawk, professor of psychology
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Experts from the University at Buffalo are available to discuss concerns related to the Ebola outbreak.

Faculty members can speak on:

For a list of UB experts on other topics, visit http://www.buffalo.edu/news/faculty-experts.html.

Coping with fear and stress

Larry Hawk, PhD
Professor of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo

Hawk, who studies the role of basic motivation and cognitive processes in health and illness, can speak about coping with fear and stress about Ebola.

Decades of research indicate that anxiety and stress heighten when stressors are perceived as extreme, uncontrollable and unpredictable, Hawk says.

“Sensationalistic coverage, and even repeated presentations of reasonable Ebola coverage, can contribute to the sense that the virus in the U.S. has all of these characteristics. But in reality it doesn’t,” he says. “One key to reducing fear and stress is to have accurate knowledge about Ebola. There are risks, but they are predictable and controllable with knowledge and reasonable precautions.

“The risks of Ebola for the average American are also much smaller than the risks of everyday life, such as contracting the flu or motor vehicle accidents. Does this mean we shouldn’t worry? No. But in the big set of things to worry about, the typical American should put Ebola way down on their list of concerns.

“When the same Ebola coverage is blasted at people for the 100th time, they should consider stepping away from the story, remind themselves of the facts, then take a walk, play a game, get a flu shot or do some other health-promoting activity. It will likely be a far better use of time.”

Kristin Gainey, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
University at Buffalo

Gainey, who studies adult mood and anxiety disorders, and emotion regulation, can also speak about coping with stress. She says staying up to date on information about the disease and following expert recommendations may help reduce stress by making you more feel more prepared.

“But it’s possible to be overly concerned with preparation in a way that is not productive and is likely to increase anxiety,” says Gainey. “In such cases, it is advisable to reduce the time you spend gathering information about the disease and prioritize activities you value.”

Staying primarily focused on the present rather than thinking too far ahead is important.

“In addition, activities like deep breathing, meditation or yoga can help decrease anxiety by allowing you to calmly evaluate your present experiences,” says Gainey.

> back to top

Challenges of diagnosis

John A. Sellick Jr., DO
Associate Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
University at Buffalo

Sellick, an infectious disease specialist and hospital epidemiologist, can speak on the challenges of diagnosing Ebola. Taking detailed medical histories on each patient presenting with fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, headache or muscle aches is now a top priority for hospitals and medical providers, he says.

“The travel history is critical,” Sellick says. “It now must be a key part of every interaction a health care worker has with each patient. Providers can no longer assume because of what someone looks like, that a patient probably hasn’t traveled out of the surrounding neighborhood.”

Sellick is a staff physician with UB Student Health Services and hospital epidemiologist at Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System and Kaleida Health.

> back to top

Protecting patients in the health care setting

Susan Grinslade, PhD, RN
Undergraduate Program Director, Clinical Professor, School of Nursing
University at Buffalo

Joann Sands, DNP, ANP-BC
Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Nursing
University at Buffalo

Grinslade and Sands can provide insight into how health care providers can protect patients in hospitals and other settings, based on CDC recommendations.

“Patients suspected of having contracted Ebola should be placed in a single room, should have all of their visitors sign in and should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a gown, gloves, mask and face shield,” Grinslade says. “It is crucial to properly don and remove PPE to avoid contamination.”

“All necessary medical equipment should be taken into the room and remain there,” Sands adds. “Staff should limit use of needles and other sharps, and aerosol-generating procedures should be avoided."

“In addition, nurses know that the best way to prevent the spread of microorganisms is hand-washing,” Sands says.

> back to top

Perceptions of risk

Janet Yang, PhD
Assistant Professor of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo

Yang, a health and risk communications specialist, can speak on the public’s perception of risks regarding Ebola in the United States.

Through a new study sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Yang is examining:

  • the public’s emotional and cognitive response to the Ebola outbreak;
  • how individuals share and seek information;
  • and how willing people are to give money, food and support to government initiatives to fight the disease.

“One of the reasons people are paying attention to the outbreak is because of how close and frightening it appears,” says Yang. “The public’s perception of risk comes from a reduction in psychological distance. A few weeks ago, when we didn’t have any confirmed cases, people were less concerned that they themselves would be affected.”

> back to top

Ebola’s evolutionary history

Derek J. Taylor, PhD
Professor of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo

Taylor, an evolutionary biologist, can discuss the evolutionary history of filoviruses, a family that includes Ebola, Marburg and the recently discovered Cuevavirus.

Experts previously believed that filoviruses were just 10,000 years old, but Taylor’s research shows that these agents are, in fact ancient — at least 18 million years old.

He studies “fossil genes” — remnants of viral genetic material that have been inserted into the genome of host animals — and has found fossils from Ebola-like viruses in many species of small rodents. This suggests that filoviruses came into being before all of these rodents, infecting one of the rodents’ common ancestors.

“These things have been interacting with mammals for a long time, on the order of millions and millions of years,” Taylor says.

> back to top

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager
Tel: 716-645-4605