By the numbers: Ebola in perspective

As health-care workers in West Africa struggle to contain the latest Ebola outbreak, scary headlines in the U.S. are spreading much faster than the disease.

Although deadlier than many infectious diseases, the virus is still extremely rare when compared with other, much more common communicable diseases. Influenza and pneumonia, for example, kill more than 50,000 people in the U.S. annually, according to the latest data from the CDC.

There have only been three confirmed Ebola cases (including one death) in the U.S. And five other cases have been or are being treated in the United States, and one U.S. citizen died abroad.

Yet, fear of contracting Ebola is much more common. According to a survey by the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 40 percent of Americans believe there will be a "large outbreak" of Ebola virus in the United States. More than a quarter worry that someone in their immediate families will be infected within the next year.

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Since 1976, there have been multiple outbreaks of Ebola and, while none have been nearly as widespread as the current epidemic, they were eventually brought under control.

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While the deadly virus is still spreading in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, a recent outbreak of the disease in Nigeria has apparently been contained. With a population of more than 170 million, Nigeria is approaching a 42-day period with no new cases that health officials say would mark the end of that outbreak.

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