Intended for healthcare professionals


Response to Ebola in the US: misinformation, fear, and new opportunities

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 07 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6712
  1. José G Merino, US clinical research editor
  1. 1The BMJ, USA
  1. jmerino{at}

On 30 September 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis of Ebola virus disease in a man who had arrived in Dallas from Liberia, without symptoms, four days earlier. Two nurses who took care of him at a Dallas community hospital became infected with the virus shortly afterwards. Although the man died, both nurses recovered. And at the end of October, a physician who recently returned from Guinea had Ebola diagnosed in New York City. These four cases of Ebola in the US have led to overreaction and unjustified fear among politicians, the media, and the public that is driven by misinformation, lack of scientific evidence, and demagoguery.

The disease caused by the Ebola virus is terrifying. The virus is highly contagious through direct contact with bodily fluids and has a high case fatality rate. The current epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea has had devastating personal, social, medical, and economic consequences: as of 5 November there have been 13 042 confirmed, possible, or suspected cases and 4818 deaths.1 Because of the fear of contagion, children orphaned by Ebola are often shunned from their communities, and because of the risk of infection, patients often die in isolation without the comfort of their loved ones. The disease has been particularly severe among healthcare workers; 546 have been infected, including the two nurses in the US, …

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