Why Do People Fear Pink Eye so Much?

One of my general frustrations is the inability of many people to be able to accurately weigh the risks of certain conditions. It was strikingly apparent with last year's panic over Ebola and the lackadaisical approach many take to the perennial killer influenza. 

A condition that strikes fear into the hearts of daycare operators and babysitters alike is pink eye. Pink eye is the colloquial term for conjunctivitis, inflammation of the white of a person's eye. It is extremely common, especially if you wear contact lenses. It has various causes some of which are actually contagious (or infectious for that manner).

Viral causes are largely due to adenovirus and can be extremely contagious, but disease is self-limiting and simple hygienic practices such as not sharing towels, face clothes, and frequent hand-washing are advised. No specific treatment other than topical decongestants is required. Bacterial forms, often characterized by the pus-induced matting of eye lashes after sleep, require topical antibiotic therapy. Allergic conjunctivitis is treated with topical anti-histamines and similar medications. 

While I don't dispute that it can be a real issue if a contagious form of conjunctivitis is marauding its way through a day care center, it strikes me as paradoxical when a child with conjunctivitis--a mild benign illness--is exiled from school but those lacking vaccinations against such diseases as measles and chickenpox are welcomed with open arms.

If one were to gauge the severity of an infection only by the degree of fear, preparation, evasive action, and urgency by the general public pink eye, lice, crabs, bed bugs, and scabies would easily outrank measles, influenza, tuberculosis, and everything else.