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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
BK: Led development of the survey and drafting of the manuscript. LS: Contributed to development of the survey; wrote sections of the manuscript; conducted substantial revisions to manuscript and tables. CB: Conducted all data analyses; wrote analysis section; compiled tables and reviewed/revised several versions of the manuscript. AS: Contributed to development of survey; conducted literature review; assisted with development of graph and tables and reviewed several versions of manuscript. HH: Contributed to development of the survey and reviewed/suggested revisions to several versions of the manuscript. ML: Contributed to development of the survey and reviewed/suggested revisions to several versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Literature suggests that Americans may have higher levels of perceived threat to Ebola than are warranted.
We surveyed 1018 U.S. adults from a nationally representative Internet panel about their knowledge, perceived threat, and behavioral intentions during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Eighty-six percent of respondents knew that Ebola could be transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. However, a large percentage had some inaccurate knowledge and 19 % believed Ebola would spread to the U.S. Respondents favored mandatory quarantine (63 %) and travel bans (55 %). Confidence in the ability of the media and government to accurately report on or prevent a U.S. epidemic was low. Fifty-two percent intended to engage in behaviors such as avoiding public transportation.
Despite low perceived susceptibility, half intended to engage in behaviors to prevent transmission and large numbers favored policies not currently recommended by health officials. The extreme nature of Ebola virus likely motivated people to engage in behaviors and favor policies that were not necessary given the low risk of transmission in the U.S.
Health officials should ensure the public has accurate information about Ebola and bolster confidence in the government’s ability to control infectious diseases in case of a future outbreak in the U.S.