WASHINGTON - Americans overwhelmingly want tougher screening for Ebola, according to a poll released as federal health authorities took new steps to do just that.
Many are worried about Ebola spreading here, and two-thirds say the government hasn't done enough to prevent that from happening, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
Some things to know:
THE PUBLIC WANTS MORE TRAVEL SCRUTINY
The AP-GfK poll found 9 out of 10 people — unusually high agreement on any issue — think it's necessary to tighten screening procedures for people entering the U.S. from the outbreak zone in West Africa, including 69 per cent who say it's definitely needed.
Some would go even further: Almost half say it's definitely necessary to prevent everyone travelling from places affected by Ebola from entering the U.S. Another 29 per cent say it's probably necessary to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned since summer that an infected traveller eventually would arrive in the U.S., and it finally happened last month when Thomas Eric Duncan developed symptoms of Ebola a few days after arriving from Liberia. He died on Oct. 8.
WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT DOING
While Duncan wasn't contagious during his flight, his arrival spurred U.S. officials to begin checking passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for a fever, an early Ebola symptom, just like they're checked before leaving those countries.
The AP-GfK poll suggested that wasn't enough.
Wednesday, the CDC moved to fill a gap in that screening: Starting next week, all of those travellers must be monitored for symptoms for 21 days, the Ebola incubation period. They'll be told to take their temperature twice a day and must report the readings to state or local health officials.
That's not just for West African visitors. It includes U.S. government employees, who had been doing their own 21-day fever watches upon return from fighting the epidemic, as well as doctors and other workers for aid organizations, and journalists.
WHY NOT A TRAVEL BAN
The Obama administration says that's not on the table. Already, there are no direct flights to the U.S. from the outbreak zone, and the airport with the most travellers from West Africa — New York's Kennedy airport — has averaged 34 travellers a day since entry screening began. Health experts say a travel ban would prevent medical supplies and health workers from reaching West Africa, and could drive travellers underground and hinder screening of potential Ebola carriers.
AMERICANS FEAR EBOLA'S SPREAD HERE
Nearly half of Americans are very or extremely concerned that Ebola will spread widely in the U.S. After all, two nurses caught it while caring for Duncan.
Health experts had hoped that fear would start to dwindle, considering that people who shared an apartment with Duncan while he was sick emerged healthy from quarantine this week — showing the virus isn't all that easy to catch.
FEAR VS. KNOWLEDGE
But despite months of headlines about Ebola, nearly a quarter of Americans acknowledge they don't really understand how Ebola spreads. Another 36 per cent say they understand it only moderately well.
People who say they do are less concerned about Ebola spreading widely in this country. Among those who feel they have a good grasp on how it spreads, 46 per cent are deeply concerned; that rises to 58 per cent among those who don't understand it as well.
Ebola doesn't spread through the air or by casual contact, and patients aren't contagious until symptoms begin. Ebola spreads through close contact with a symptomatic person's bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, feces, urine, saliva, semen or sweat.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 16-20, using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,608 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all respondents. Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com