Americans Increasingly Anxious About Ebola: Poll

    By Dennis Thompson
    HealthDay Reporter

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – October 10, 2014 – One-quarter of Americans now view Ebola as a major public health threat to the United States, with many saying they’d change their travel plans due to Ebola fears, a new Harris Poll/HealthDay survey reveals.

    The online poll of more than 2,000 adults, taken between Oct. 2 and 6, finds the number of people seriously concerned about Ebola surging in recent weeks.

    The number of people who consider Ebola a major threat to the United States jumped from 13 percent in mid-September — before the nation’s first diagnosed case of Ebola appeared in Dallas on Sept. 28 — to 27 percent during polling earlier this week.

    The Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, died Wednesday from the disease.

    The public’s rising concern over Ebola is understandable, said Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician and researcher Dr. Pritish Tosh.

    Ebola is an agent that evokes a lot of fear, and can result in societal disruption, Tosh said. There’s a reason why it’s considered a possible bioterrorism agent. So any time you have any cases in the United States, there is a heightened amount of anxiety.

    But he added that much of the fear is unwarranted, given that Ebola does not spread easily and the United States has advanced health care and public health systems in place to deal with potential outbreaks.

    Still, the Ebola crisis in Africa prompted the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, to state Thursday: In my 30 years in public health, the only thing that has been like this is AIDS. We have to work now so that this is not the world’s next AIDS.

    In the poll, about one out of four people who had holiday or business travel plans said they now plan to cancel or cut back on that travel, due to concerns about Ebola.

    Tosh said he traveled by air himself without concern on Tuesday, flying from Minnesota to Philadelphia so he could attend an infectious diseases conference.

    Ebola shouldn’t be the reason people aren’t seeing their family for Thanksgiving, he said.

    Overall, the survey found that 55 percent of people now view Ebola as some level of public health threat to the United States, up 15 percentage points from the mid-September survey. That’s more than are worried about widespread illnesses such as hepatitis C (49 percent) or West Nile virus (45 percent).

    Poll respondents also came out strongly in favor of increased screening of new arrivals to America from the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the main countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

    Nine out of 10 people said they agree with screening of people entering the country from those nations, and two-thirds said they agree strongly.

    On Wednesday, U.S. authorities announced that five major international airports — JFK International Airport in New York City, Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey — would begin Ebola screening for passengers arriving from the three affected West African nations.

    As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to grow very rapidly, and the first American Ebola victims are being treated in this country, there is overwhelming support for strict screening of all new arrivals from the countries affected, said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.

    However, there were also signs in the poll that concern over Ebola has not yet spilled over into outright panic. More than four out of five respondents told the pollsters they don’t plan to make any changes in their daily routine because of the outbreak, and three-quarters said they’re still more worried about catching the flu than Ebola.

    Of course, that could change if any of the people who came into contact with Duncan contract Ebola themselves, Taylor noted.

    The public’s anxiety may also be amplified by a lack of understanding about the virus.

    For example, three out of four of those polled said they are concerned that people carrying Ebola will infect others before showing symptoms themselves.

    But that simply can’t happen, according to both Tosh and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Ebola can only be transmitted by people who have fallen ill and are already showing symptoms — and even then only if a healthy person comes into contact with the body fluids of a sick person, Tosh said.

    He believes the situation in West Africa is dire because people don’t have proper sanitation or access to either health care or funeral services, which puts them in direct contact with the blood, vomit, feces and other excretions of both living and dead Ebola patients.

    The situation in West Africa that has allowed the outbreak to continue is very different than what is happening in the United States, Tosh said.

    According to the World Health Organization, over 8,000 cases of Ebola have now been reported in West Africa, and almost 3,900 people have died.

    More information

    For more on Ebola, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

    SOURCES: Humphrey Taylor, chairman, The Harris Poll; Pritish Tosh, M.D., infectious diseases physician and researcher, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

     

    TABLE 1

    PUBLIC ATTITUDES TO, AND CONCERNS ABOUT EBOLA – Summary Grid

    In light of Ebola recently being diagnosed within the United States, how strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?

    Base: All adults with Applicable Responses

     

    Strongly/Somewhat agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Strongly/Somewhat disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Even though international travelers are tested when leaving areas affected by Ebola, they should still be screened again upon arriving in the U.S.

    %

    89

    67

    23

    11

    6

    5

    I don’t plan on changing my daily routine due to this.

    %

    84

    56

    28

    16

    9

    7

    I am more worried about contracting the flu than I am about contracting Ebola.

    %

    77

    40

    37

    23

    13

    10

    I am concerned that individuals carrying the Ebola virus will infect others before beginning to show symptoms themselves.

    %

    75

    41

    34

    25

    14

    11

    I am worried about family and/or friends who travel frequently.

    %

    57

    24

    33

    43

    21

    22

    Due to this, I will be less likely to leave my home if I can avoid it for the time being.

    %

    23

    9

    14

    77

    27

    49

    I plan to cancel or cut back on upcoming holiday travel plans due to this.

    %

    24

    11

    13

    76

    22

    54

    I plan to cancel or cut back on upcoming business travel plans due to this.

    %

    26

    12

    14

    74

    22

    52

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2a

    KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT VIRUSES/DISEASES – Summary Grid

    Now thinking about something different, how knowledgeable are you about each of the following?

    Base: All adults

     

    Very Knowledgeable/ knowledgeable (NET)

    Very knowledgeable

    Knowledgeable

    Not very/Not at all knowledgeable (NET)

    Not very knowledgeable

    Not at all knowledgeable

    Rabies

    %

    55

    9

    47

    45

    33

    11

    Measles

    %

    54

    10

    43

    46

    32

    14

    Ebola

    %

    45

    8

    37

    55

    38

    16

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    44

    8

    36

    56

    39

    17

    Hepatitis C

    %

    44

    9

    35

    56

    39

    17

    Polio

    %

    44

    8

    36

    56

    39

    17

    West Nile Virus

    %

    44

    6

    37

    56

    38

    18

    Smallpox

    %

    43

    8

    35

    57

    40

    17

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    31

    5

    26

    69

    40

    29

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    24

    5

    20

    76

    45

    31

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2b

    KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT VIRUSES/DISEASES

    Very/Somewhat Knowledgeable Trend

    Now thinking about something different, how knowledgeable are you about each of the following?

    Base: All adults

     

    Very Knowledgeable/ knowledgeable (NET)

    Very knowledgeable

    Knowledgeable

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Rabies

    %

    52

    55

    8

    9

    45

    47

    Measles

    %

    51

    54

    7

    10

    43

    43

    Ebola

    %

    38

    45

    5

    8

    33

    37

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    41

    44

    6

    8

    36

    36

    Hepatitis C

    %

    36

    44

    5

    9

    31

    35

    Polio

    %

    41

    44

    6

    8

    35

    36

    West Nile Virus

    %

    40

    44

    5

    6

    35

    37

    Smallpox

    %

    38

    43

    5

    8

    33

    35

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    29

    31

    4

    5

    24

    26

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    22

    24

    3

    5

    19

    20

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2c

    KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT VIRUSES/DISEASES

    Very/Somewhat Knowledgeable – By Generation

    Now thinking about something different, how knowledgeable are you about each of the following?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Ebola

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    38

    41

    40

    39

    29

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    45

    54

    44

    40

    38

     

    TABLE 3a

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S. – Summary Grid

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Minimal/No threat (NET)

    Minimal threat

    No threat – no live cases in the U.S.

    Not sure

    Ebola

    %

    55

    27

    28

    35

    32

    3

    10

    Hepatitis C

    %

    49

    13

    36

    39

    36

    3

    12

    West Nile Virus

    %

    45

    11

    34

    44

    38

    6

    11

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    39

    9

    30

    49

    42

    7

    12

    Measles

    %

    30

    6

    24

    59

    50

    9

    11

    Rabies

    %

    28

    6

    22

    61

    53

    8

    11

    Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    28

    8

    20

    51

    41

    11

    21

    Smallpox

    %

    21

    7

    14

    66

    40

    25

    14

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    17

    8

    9

    66

    32

    34

    17

    Polio

    %

    17

    6

    11

    69

    42

    27

    14

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3b

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S.

    Major/Moderate Threat Trend

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Ebola

    %

    40

    55

    13

    27

    27

    28

    Hepatitis C

    %

    48

    49

    10

    13

    37

    36

    West Nile Virus

    %

    47

    45

    9

    11

    38

    34

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    37

    39

    8

    9

    29

    30

    Measles

    %

    28

    30

    4

    6

    23

    24

    Rabies

    %

    25

    28

    5

    6

    21

    22

    Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    28

    28

    6

    8

    21

    20

    Smallpox

    %

    16

    21

    4

    7

    12

    14

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    12

    17

    5

    8

    6

    9

    Polio

    %

    11

    17

    3

    6

    8

    11

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3c

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE U.S.

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Generation

    How much of a threat to public health in the United States do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Ebola

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    40

    39

    37

    42

    41

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    55

    55

    56

    55

    52

     

    TABLE 4a

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD – Summary Grid

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Minimal/No threat (NET)

    Minimal threat

    No threat – no live cases in the world

    Not sure

    Ebola

    %

    84

    60

    24

    7

    6

    1

    9

    West Nile Virus

    %

    65

    25

    41

    21

    19

    2

    14

    Hepatitis C

    %

    63

    23

    40

    23

    21

    2

    14

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    63

    22

    41

    24

    22

    2

    14

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    55

    19

    36

    25

    22

    2

    20

    Measles

    %

    53

    17

    37

    32

    29

    3

    15

    Smallpox

    %

    49

    18

    31

    35

    28

    7

    16

    Rabies

    %

    47

    14

    33

    39

    36

    3

    14

    Polio

    %

    47

    16

    30

    36

    31

    6

    17

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    41

    18

    23

    40

    29

    10

    19

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 4b

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

    Major/Moderate Threat Trend

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

     

    Major/Moderate threat (NET)

    Major threat

    Moderate threat

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    Ebola

    %

    80

    84

    51

    60

    29

    24

    West Nile Virus

    %

    65

    65

    24

    25

    41

    41

    Hepatitis C

    %

    62

    63

    21

    23

    41

    40

    H1N1/Swine Flu

    %

    64

    63

    21

    22

    43

    41

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS

    %

    57

    55

    20

    19

    37

    36

    Measles

    %

    56

    53

    15

    17

    41

    37

    Smallpox

    %

    50

    49

    16

    18

    33

    31

    Rabies

    %

    47

    47

    13

    14

    34

    33

    Polio

    %

    46

    47

    14

    16

    32

    30

    Bubonic Plague

    %

    38

    41

    14

    18

    23

    23

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 4c

    THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

    Major/Moderate Threat – By Generation

    How much of a threat to public health anywhere in the world do you believe each of the following represent?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Ebola

    Pre Ebola Case in U.S.

    80

    72

    78

    85

    89

    Post Ebola Case in U.S.

    84

    79

    83

    88

    91

     

    TABLE 5

    AWARENESS OF DIAGNOSED EBOLA CASE IN THE UNITED STATES

    By Generation

    Ebola has now been officially diagnosed within the United States. Before taking this survey, were you aware of this?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    92

    85

    95

    96

    95

    No

    8

    15

    5

    4

    5


     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll/HealthDay study was conducted online within the United States between October 2 and 6, 2014 among 2,053 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.