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Americans' Fears of Ebola May Be Fading, Poll Finds

New HealthDay/Harris Poll reveals some easing of anxiety, although misconceptions remain

THURSDAY, Nov. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- HealthDay/Harris Poll will release a survey tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 at 9:00 a.m., noting that Americans' fears about Ebola seem to be waning, though many still believe the virus is a public health threat to the United States.

The online poll, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults between Oct. 28-30, found that anxiety over Ebola appeared to be declining -- even in the wake of the most recent case, involving an infected doctor in New York City.

Just under half (49 percent) of those surveyed now consider Ebola a "moderate" or "major" public health threat to Americans. That's down from 55 percent in a similar poll conducted in early October, soon after news broke of the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States.

The new poll also found a rise in the number of people who say they're more worried about catching the seasonal flu than they are about contracting Ebola -- up from 40 percent in the earlier poll to 47 percent in the latest one.

"The fear of an Ebola epidemic in this country has, it seems, begun to erode," said Harris Poll chairman Humphrey Taylor. And that, Taylor noted, may be partly due to the fact that no one has been infected on U.S. shores. All of the other seven people cared for in the United States contracted Ebola while in West Africa, site of the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

Dr. Joseph McCormick, an infectious-disease expert, agreed that there's some good news in the poll results -- especially the decline in people's travel worries. "There's no question there have been unfounded fears about travel," said McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville.

At the same time, though, Americans may still have a distorted view of Ebola's potential impact on the United States, McCormick said. For example, poll respondents thought Ebola was a bigger public health threat to the United States than hepatitis C -- a potentially severe and fatal liver infection that affects millions of Americans.

According to McCormick, people concerned about Ebola should seek out "credible" information -- whether from the CDC, university websites, or responsible media stories. Even though the media has been blamed for fanning the flames of Ebola anxiety, McCormick said there are also plenty of balanced stories on the outbreak.

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About Harris Poll

Harris Poll is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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