Poll Finds Ebola Has Little Impact on Travel Plans

Majority of Travelers Confident in Response to Outbreak, Misconceptions About the Disease Still Widespread

By Paul Riegler on 17 November 2014
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Ebola continues to be a major item in the headlines, as major misconceptions about the virus and how it spreads continue, according to the results of a new poll conducted by Frequent Business Traveler in partnership with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community.

The poll was conducted at a time of a worldwide discussion over how people traveling from the Ebola-impacted regions into the United States and other countries are treated.

More than seven out of ten travelers said correctly that the Ebola virus does not spread easily, although almost two out of ten thought it did. Six out of ten respondents felt that the measures officials are taking to contain the virus were “sufficient,” while the rest were equally divided between being “not sure” and seeing the precautions as “insufficient.”

While a scant 7% said they had changed their plans due to the outbreak, which included cancelling or postponing trips to Africa or elsewhere, twice as many, 13%, said they were taking extra precautions when travelling, although the precautions that were being taken would not do anything to actually prevent the transmission of Ebola.

Out of the respondents who said they were taking precautions, 74% said they were washing their hands more frequently, 72% said they were using hand sanitizer, while far smaller numbers, 11% and 15%, said they were wearing gloves or a face mask respectively. Other precautions cited included disinfecting surfaces and avoiding contact with people in general.

Two thirds of those polled indicated that they viewed Ebola as a “threat” of some kind, while only one-third stated that Ebola was no threat at all. Eight percent specifically said they viewed Ebola as a “major threat.”

Even though most respondents did not consider Ebola to be a significant threat, roughly eight out of ten agreed that travelers arriving from West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone should be carefully screened upon arrival in the United States.

Misconceptions about Ebola, however, abound. One-third of those surveyed incorrectly said they believe that “people carrying Ebola will infect others before showing symptoms themselves.”

Meanwhile, large corporations are taking steps to help employees cope with the threat. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said that their employer had taken one or more steps in reaction to the Ebola outbreak. Out of those responding in the affirmative, 79% said that their employer had communicated with them about Ebola, 30% said that their employer “had identified and tracked employees in affected West African nations,” while almost one quarter had both put international travel restrictions into place and activated some kind of emergency preparedness plan relating to the outbreak.

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