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Students’ anxiety about Ebola outbreak driven by misconceptions

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Mon Nov 24 2014


MISCONCEPTIONS about how Ebola is being transmitted are making students more anxious than they should be, a survey conducted by a group of students at Trinity College Foundation Studies has found. Eunice Chan, Stephanie Nguyen and Melina Poon share their findings. 


News about the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa have been making headlines, and it has understandably sparked fears and caused some international students to ponder the possible spread of the virus to Australia.

A small survey was conducted at Trinity College Foundation Studies to examine students’ perceptions as well as how much they understand Ebola.

Ebola survey

While the majority of students surveyed said they were concerned about the outbreak, students either did not know, or were largely misinformed about how the deadly is spread.

More than half of students surveyed said they did not know how Ebola is transmitted. Some students believed people could catch the virus “by contact with infected water” while others thought it was an airborne disease or could be transmitted through mere physical contact.

So what is Ebola and how is it spread?

The Guardian provides a useful explainer (see video above) on the disease, how it is transmitted, the organs it disrupts, the symptoms of infection and the chances of survival.

According to Australia’s Department of Health, the risk of Ebola spreading to the Australian public is very low. You cannot get Ebola through air (i.e breathing air in proximity to a person with Ebola), water or food that is produced or purchased in Australia. It can only be spread by direct contact between broken skin or mucous membranes and the blood or body fluids of an infected person or animal.

Australia’s response to the Ebola outbreak

Students surveyed have suggested that greater public awareness could help ease fears and anxieties among students, with more than 70 per cent saying they were concerned with people coming to Australia from Ebola-affected countries.

Australia has in fact taken a number of steps to tackle Ebola, including tighter health checks at Australia’s airports and borders. Australia has also suspended its immigration programs from Ebola-affected countries, including its humanitarian program, though the move has drawn “veiled criticism” from the United Nations Security Council.

To date, no case of Ebola has yet been recorded in Australia, although a number of people have been tested.

For more information on Ebola and frequently asked questions, visit the Department of Health website

This story was produced by media and communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collab. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch us via