WASHINGTON — As Americans are becoming increasingly fearful of Ebola, there is still notable confusion about how the deadly virus is spread, according to new polling.
Although 70 percent of U.S. adults say they’re closely following news about Ebola, just 36 percent know that an infected person must be experiencing symptoms of the disease to be able to transmit the virus to others, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.
Still, some basic information is getting through to the public.
Kaiser found 97 percent of those polled do know that Ebola can be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a symptomatic person.
But only 55 percent knew that you cannot get the virus by shaking hands with someone who was exposed to Ebola but isn’t experiencing symptoms of the disease. Two-thirds of those polled understood that Ebola cannot be passed through the air, but one-quarter were still under that impression.
A separate Harvard School of Public Health poll released Wednesday night found that 85 percent of people thought they could get Ebola if a symptomatic person sneezed or coughed on them.
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it is possible the virus could be spread this way, but the WHO said it is “not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission.”
Also, coughing and sneezing are not common Ebola symptoms.
Americans are certainly paying attention to the public-health crisis.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that about two-thirds of Americans were concerned about a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States. Those concerns could also explain why most people in the Kaiser poll (56 percent) said the media have provided the right amount of coverage of the Ebola cases in the United States.
Despite those fears, people are fairly optimistic about the ability to fight the disease in the United States.
About 80 percent in the Harvard poll said a person in their community would be likely to survive Ebola if the infection was detected immediately.