Survey Shows Majority of U.S. Consumers, Healthcare Professionals Not Worried About Contracting Ebola

According to a new survey released today from WebMD, when it comes to Ebola, nearly three-quarters of American consumers and healthcare professionals say they're not worried about catching the disease. But less than half of respondents believe the U.S. healthcare system is prepared to manage an Ebola outbreak, should one occur.

More than 2,000 consumers and healthcare professionals responded to the WebMD/Medscape Ebola survey, which included responses from 1,058 healthcare professionals including, physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Of the 1,280 consumers who responded, approximately 60 percent were parents and half reported having a college degree or higher level of education.

"Despite a 24/7 news cycle about crises, outbreaks, travel bans and quarantines, the majority of Americans are aware that the risk to the general public of contracting Ebola in the United States is very low," says Michael W. Smith, MD, WebMD chief medical editor.

While three-quarters of survey respondents are not worried about catching the disease, there was widespread support among consumers and professionals to enact screenings, flight restrictions, and quarantines as reasonable responses to prevent the spread of the virus in the U.S.

Below are some of the key findings:
• Eighty-four percent of consumers and 89 percent of healthcare professionals support the screening of passengers arriving from areas affected by Ebola.
• Sixty-nine percent of consumers and 52 percent of healthcare professionals say it is reasonable to stop flights from affected areas from landing in the U.S. until Ebola outbreaks are under control.
• Fifty-seven percent of consumers and 56 percent of healthcare professionals are in favor of quarantining visitors from affected countries until certain they are not affected by Ebola.

Despite half of healthcare professionals feeling that the U.S. public health system is not prepared to respond to or manage an Ebola outbreak, the majority feels prepared to handle Ebola when it comes to their own practice setting.
• Sixty-three percent of healthcare professionals report their practice, department, or hospital is prepared to treat a person with Ebola symptoms.
• Ninety-seven percent of healthcare professionals say they are familiar with the symptoms of Ebola.      
• Eighty-two percent of healthcare professionals say they've reviewed CDC recommendations on symptoms for Ebola.

According to the CDC, the number of people who die each year from flu-related causes in the U.S. ranges from 3,000 to 49,000. Also, state public-health labs have confirmed more than 970 cases of enterovirus D68. These statistics provide context in comparison to confirmed U.S. Ebola cases. When asked what type of threat each poses to public health, healthcare professionals are in agreement that influenza and enterovirus pose higher risks to the population, with 69 percent of healthcare professionals viewing influenza as a high threat to public health, compared to 17 percent who rank Ebola as a high threat. Enterovirus D68 ranks as a high threat by 33 percent of healthcare professionals.

Source: WebMD