The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be a public health emergency of international concern, but that doesn’t mean you should panic. Here’s why:

The common cold is more contagious than Ebola

Ebola is not airborne and it doesn’t spread very efficiently among humans, says Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Ebola is an infectious disease that’s very deadly and strikes fear into people’s minds when they think of it. However, it’s not very contagious,” he told CTV News Channel Friday.

“The only way that you can get Ebola is through exposure to blood and bodily fluids. This isn’t influenza, it isn’t the common cold, this isn’t measles – you can’t get it through the air.”

Canadian public health officials have made the same assurances as the outbreak grows in West Africa.

North America is well-equipped to handle Ebola infections

According to doctors and aid workers on the ground, one of the biggest contributors to the spread of Ebola in four African countries was the lack of basic medical equipment and supplies, such as gloves and clean needles.

Preventing the spread of Ebola requires simple measures, Adalja said. That includes isolating infected people, monitoring those who’ve been in contact with them and wearing protective gloves and gowns while caring for the sick and handling dead bodies. Those are all standard practices in all Canadian and U.S. hospitals.

Canadian health officials have learned valuable lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak, which spread from China to Canada and other parts of the world. The domestic and international response to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, shaped Canada’s current public health policies.

Canada is also prepared to stop Ebola from entering the country. Border guards are on alert for any signs of illness among travellers and the Quarantine Act allows them to detain and examine anyone suspected of having an infectious disease.

Taking precautions is easy and simple

Take note of the Canadian government’s travel advisories and avoid parts of the world affected by the outbreak. Wash your hands frequently. If you must travel to areas with known Ebola cases, avoid close contact with sick individuals and avoid both live and dead animals, which can spread the virus.