Doctors say focus less on Ebola, more on 5 deadly infectious diseases already in Colorado

DENVER - Health officials in Colorado are getting plenty of worried phone calls concerning Ebola, but infectious disease doctors say there are five other diseases currently in the state that you should be more worried about.

"If you're going to be concerned about an infection killing you, great, let's focus on those infections that are much more likely to kill you here in Colorado," said Larry Wolk, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"Tuberculosis is probably the No. 1 killer in terms of infectious diseases across the world," said Dr. Michelle Barron, an infectious disease physician at University of Colorado Hospital.

Tuberculosis is already in Colorado. Two years ago, a student at Longmont High School spread TB to 120 other students, according to health officials.

Colorado is also in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic, in part, because some parents are choosing not to immunize their children against pertussis.

"Whooping cough kills almost 200,000 people worldwide," said Wolk.

Then there are foodborne illnesses such caused by Hepatitis A, salmonella and listeria.

Three years ago, listeria linked to a Colorado cantaloupe company killed more than 30 people.

"We should be more concerned about how we prepare food, how we handle food," said Wolk.

Insect and animal infections this season, such as West Nile Virus, came on early and strong in Colorado this year, and people have recently been diagnosed with hantavirus infections and also plague.

"Because we have people who think, 'Oh, that cute squirrel or that bunny or that prairie dog,'" said Wolk.

However, specialists say there is one infectious disease you should be more worried about than Ebola.

"What keeps you up at night?" 7NEWS Reporter Jaclyn Allen asked Barron.

"The flu," said Barron. "I've been in ICU's when we've had really bad flu seasons and young, sometimes otherwise healthy individuals, die."

Flu season is just around the corner and it's far more likely you or someone you love could die from that infectious disease than from Ebola. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 36,000 people in the U.S. die each year from influenza.

"The likelihood of you getting Ebola is next to zero," said Barron.

The runner up on the list of infectious diseases to watch for is norovirus, also known as the cruise ship virus.

It is highly contagious and doctors told 7NEWS it's not usually fatal, but makes people feel like they're going to die.

The good news about all of these bad diseases is that they are all preventable -- including Ebola.

Doctors said instead of worrying about outbreaks, do what you can to stop them.

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