Some common sense on Ebola…from Fox News?

You were not duped. The above clip from Fox New Channel anchor Shepard Smith is clear and sensible. He reminds viewers that Ebola is not spreading in America and everyone has no reason to worry about getting Ebola, unless they are the few people contacted by health authorities for potentially having come in contact with a Texas Presbyterian Ebola-infected nurse.

“These are the facts: we do not have an outbreak of Ebola in the United States. Nowhere,” said Smith.

Many of you will probably nod your heads as you listen to Smith. Some will even say that this is what health authorities and news reports have said the whole time. You are right. Problem is that the facts are not convincing the majority of Americans.

More than one-third of Americans fear that they or someone in their family will contract Ebola in the next year, finds a new Harvard School of Public Health/SSRS poll. It also found that 85 percent of people surveyed think sneezing or coughing spread Ebola. It doesn’t.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about how Ebola is being spread in the public and they are basically saying they believe it is likely to be spread in any way that seems logical to them, without knowing the mechanics of contagion,” Gillian SteelFisher, a Harvard researcher, told Reuters.

The poll was conducted Oct. 8-12, a time when the first Texas nurse was confirmed to have contracted Ebola. Now, a second nurse who cared for Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan has the virus. The bad news is that others may have been infected. That is because Duncan was treated without protective gear for two days while he was symptomatic.

The findings are similar to those in a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, released today.  It found that 45 percent of respondents were “worried that they or someone in their family will get sick from Ebola.” Overall, some 63 percent of people are at least “somewhat” concerned by the possibility of contracting Ebola in the next year. Despite those concerns, the majority believe Ebola will be contained to a few cases in the United States. There is also a very high level of trust that the CDC and health authorities can contain Ebola cases if they arrive in new communities.

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The virus remains largely misunderstood by Americans. Nearly half of all people incorrectly believe Ebola is spread when a person does not have any symptoms. They are wrong. Further, Ebola does not spread through the air vents or due to a rip in protective gear, as seen in the movie Outbreak. The hospital treating Duncan unfortunately did not follow proper protocol for treating a suspected patient with Ebola. More people are at risk because of that mistake and the fact that the second nurse traveled on the flight while experiencing minor flulike symptoms.

That brings us to something far more common and deadly in the United States: the flu. More than 30,000 people die each year in the United States from the from. That a lot more than the 4,400 people dead from the current Ebola outbreak. Fortunately, the flu vaccine can help prevent infections each year, but it is not perfect.

HT Vox

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.