Via PLOS Currents Outbreaks, a report with implications for governments and health agencies: Lessons from Ebola: Sources of Outbreak Information and the Associated Impact on UC Irvine and Ohio University College Students. The abstract:
Objectives. We examined the role of outbreak information sources through four domains: knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and stigma related to the 2014 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak.
Methods. We conducted an online survey of 797 undergraduates at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Ohio University (OU) during the peak of the outbreak. We calculated individual scores for domains and analyzed associations to demographic variables and news sources.
Results. Knowledge of EVD was low and misinformation was prevalent. News media (34%) and social media (19%) were the most used sources of EVD information while official government websites (OGW) were among the least used (11%). Students who acquired information through OGW had higher knowledge, more positive attitudes towards those infected, a higher belief in the government, and were less likely to stigmatize Ebola victims.
Conclusions. Information sources are likely to influence students’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and stigma relating to EVD. This study contains crucial insight for those tasked with risk communication to college students. Emphasis should be given to developing effective strategies to achieve a comprehensive knowledge of EVD and future public health threats.