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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard Poll Finds Many in U.S. Lack Knowledge about Ebola and its Transmission

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports no known cases of Ebola transmission in the United States, a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)/SSRS poll released August 21 shows that four in 10 (39 percent) adults in the U.S. are concerned that there will be a large outbreak in the U.S., and a quarter (26 percent) are concerned that they or someone in their immediate family may get sick with Ebola over the next year.

The nationally representative poll of 1,025 adults was conducted August 13-17 by researchers at HSPH and SSRS, an independent research company. The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates, such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. Four countries have reported infections: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Officials report 1,350 have died as of August 21 and over 2,473 people have been infected since March.

The HSPH/SSRS poll found people with less education are more likely to be concerned about an outbreak in the U.S. (less than high school 50 percent vs. some college 36 percent vs. college grad or more 24 percent). People with less education are also more concerned they or their family will get sick with Ebola (less than high school 37 percent vs. some college 22 percent vs. college grad or more 14 percent). Perhaps related, those with less education are also less likely to be following the news about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa closely (total 63 percent; less than high school 57 percent and some college 62 percent vs. college grad or more 73 percent).

Two-thirds of people (68 percent) surveyed believe Ebola spreads “easily” (“very easily” or “somewhat easily”) from those who are sick with it. This perception may contrast with CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), 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 third of those polled (33 percent) believe there is “an effective medicine to treat people who have gotten sick with Ebola.” According to the CDC and WHO, there is no proven antiviral medicine, however, treating symptoms such as maintaining fluids, oxygen levels, and blood pressure can increase the odds of survival. To date, the media reports two people infected with Ebola overseas have been treated in the U.S. Read more