NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever continues to rage in West Africa, 69 percent of New Jersey residents are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an outbreak in the United States, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than one-third of residents are paying “very close” attention to Ebola news, while an additional 40 percent are following the story “somewhat closely.”
Despite extensive media coverage of the crisis, however, New Jerseyans are uncertain about Ebola’s transmission and treatment. Public health officials explain that Ebola is far less contagious than measles or influenza, but 67 percent of residents believe the virus is transmitted relatively easily, the survey finds. And while there is no cure with patients primarily treated for their symptoms, 39 percent think there is a medicine effective against Ebola, while 40 percent know there is none; another 21 percent are unsure.
Also, uncertainty about whether anyone hospitalized for Ebola in the U.S. actually caught the virus here is high: 42 percent think the virus has been transmitted on American soil, while 45 percent say, correctly, that this is not the case.
Misperceptions about Ebola are greatest among New Jerseyans paying the most attention, the poll discovers. Those most focused on the news are more than twice as likely as the least attentive residents to think there is an effective medicine, and 13 points more likely to think the virus spreads relatively easily.Greater attention to the news is also related to stronger concern about a U.S. outbreak. Seventy-six percent of residents following Ebola news very closely are at least somewhat concerned that an outbreak will happen here, compared to 60 percent of those paying relatively little attention.
“As in national polls, Garden Staters are worried about Ebola, but many do not know basic facts,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Within the countless hours of media coverage, some hysterical voices are feeding perceptions that Ebola is a huge threat to the U.S. But, so far it is not even close to the threat of death from the flu, which statistics show kills from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans every year.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. Some questions included in the poll were inspired by a recent nationwide poll by the Harvard School of Public Health.
For complete poll results, click here.
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