Ebola has never been transmitted in the United States (and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it "does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public"). Yet, four in 10 adults in the U.S. are afraid that there will be a large outbreak in this country, according to a recent survey from the Harvard School of Public Health.
The survey, conducted along with independent research company SSRS, also showed that one in four U.S. adults is worried that a member of their immediate family will become sick with Ebola sometime in the next year.
However, despite headlines announcing the latest high death toll in West Africa from the deadly virus, the risk of an outbreak like that happening in the United States is extremely low, experts say. That’s because a person with the virus is only contagious when he or she is symptomatic, plus, you’d have to actually come physically in contact with the person’s bodily fluids (or contaminated objects/animals) in order to contract the virus. As for the two Americans who came to the U.S. for treatment for Ebola from West Africa, “there is zero danger to the U.S. public from these [two] cases or the Ebola outbreak in general, University of Pittsburgh infectious disease doctor Amesh Adalja told The Washington Post.
Mother Jones points out that media distortion of the Ebola outbreak may be to blame for these fears about a U.S. outbreak — particularly when news stories highlight the death and tragedy of the outbreak, but not the unique reasons for why the outbreak seems to have taken special hold in West Africa.
The new survey was conducted between Aug. 13 and 17, and included 1,025 adults. Among the findings:
- Concerns about a potential U.S. outbreak seemed to be tied to education level. Fifty percent of people who had less than a high school education were concerned, compared with 36 percent of people who had some college education. Meanwhile, 24 percent of people with a college degree, or more, were concerned.
- Two out of three said they think Ebola spreads “easily.” However, the World Health Organization has made it clear that the disease can only be transmitted with direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects/animals.
- One out of three think there’s an “effective medicine” against Ebola. This is also false, given the fact that there are no proven medicines against Ebola, only some experimental ones. It is possible, however, to treat symptoms of Ebola -— which could aid in survival.