On his VDU's blog, Dr. Ian Mackay and Dr. Katherine E. Arden write: Catching Ebola: mistakes, messages and madness [amended]. Excerpt (but read the whole post):
The extent of the fear inspired by the first imported EVD case was especially clear from the massive spike in social media content from the United States which followed the arrival from Liberia of an individual with EVD; far more social media activity than had been seen in the United States to that point, or since.[14,10]
This month, even though 11 contacts/associates are being flown back to the United States for observation; on the heels of the index case, social media activity has barely responded – in fact Twitter is possibly more positive/neutral about Ebola in the US in March 2015 than in August 2014, rather than excessively fearful, mean or just plain hysterical.
Some of the heat may have been taken out of the emotional response to Ebola outside Africa because it is now clear that a catastrophic pandemic is not going to happen. Kinda like we were told. I know; it's so uncool to be reminded that you were told something by a grown up - and it was right!
Well...THEY TOLD YOU SO!!!
Nations with better (some!) healthcare infrastructure, preparedness, healthcare to patient ratios and those who got advice and help quickly, curtailed the spread of EVD. Kicked it out. Stomped on it. Terminated it. This was true even when contacts had been classified as at high risk of getting sick.
Public health messaging made some big calls early on. Some examples include tweets by Head of Public Relations for the WHO, Gregory Härtl, and later by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Director, Dr Tom Freiden. They made it clear that Ebola virus was not easy to catch and that measures to stop an outbreak were known.
At the time, this didn't jibe with other voices and the unprecedented number of EVD cases and deaths, especially from August onwards, that were tallying up at an exponential rate in west Africa. But those messages, while technically correct, probably didn't convey enough of some of the biggest factors in a disease outbreak - fear, ignorance (meant only in the sense of no specific knowledge of Ebola virus and EVD), tradition and history - the human factors rather than the viral ones.
Some comments about transmission suggested essentially no chance of even a single new case happening on the home soil of richer countries - they were overly enthusiastic. They were unjustifiable and when some hospital workers in non-African countries became infected, they were ultimately seen for the mistake in message crafting that they were.
Much of the science of the Ebola epidemic is yet to be written, but what we know today is that it is unlikely that Ebola transmission is any different from what was observed decades ago. Direct, physical contact with a very ill person’s fluids is the overwhelmingly biggest risk factor to target in reducing disease spread.
And even then there's no guarantee that disease will result from all instances of contact. We still have much to learn.