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Why do pandemics cause panic?




A hazmat worker prepares to enter an apartment  where a second person diagnosed with the Ebola virus resides on October 13, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.
A hazmat worker prepares to enter an apartment where a second person diagnosed with the Ebola virus resides on October 13, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.
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Ebola is not a global pandemic, and it's far from widespread in the US. There's only been one death and two other confirmed cases in America.

But still, there's plenty of panic.

In the past week, there have been scares in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, Kansas City and more.

All of them have been false alarms.

Phillip Alcabes, author of, "Dread: How fear and fantasy have fueled epidemics from the Black Death the Avian Flu, " says pandemic threats -- swine flu, SARS, AIDS -- have historically caused large scale panics.

He adds that certain groups and ethnicities often become the target of people's fears, too.