Ebola Questions Still Linger for Many Americans

For as much as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been in the news lately, a recent survey shows there is still more work to be done when it comes to educating the American public about the risks of the disease.

For as much as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been in the news lately, a recent survey shows there is still more work to be done when it comes to educating the American public about the risks of the disease.

According to a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), nearly 4 in 10 American adults are worried the outbreak could spread to the United States. The survey also showed nearly one-quarter are worried that either they or someone they know could contract the virus in the next year.

The survey included just over 1000 people with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points, 95% confidence level. According to HSPH, people with less education were more likely to be concerned about the outbreak spreading to the US and were more worried about someone they know contracting Ebola, yet were less likely to follow news about the outbreak.

Although stories since the outbreak began have stressed that Ebola can only be transmitted from person to person under very specific circumstances, the survey found 68% of respondents still believed it could be transmitted “easily.”

“This perception may contrast with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) , World Health Organization and other health experts who note that Ebola is not an airborne illness, and is transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, infected objects, or infected animals,” a news release that accompanied publication of the poll results noted.

Also in contrast to information provided by health organizations like the CDC and WHO, 33% of respondents said they believed there is “an effective medicine to treat people who have gotten sick with Ebola.

Gillian SteelFisher, the deputy director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program and a research scientist in the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management, said the data show there is still more work to be done in the public sector when it comes to the virus.

“Many people are concerned about a large scale outbreak of Ebola occurring in the US,” she said. “As they report on events related to Ebola, the media and public health officials need to better inform Americans of Ebola and how it is spread.”