How News Headlines Affect Our Reactions to Health Issues

By Roy Benaroch, M.D., Emory University

In October 2014, CNN covered a news story about an epidemic caused by the Ebola virus spreading in West Africa. The headline read: “Ebola in the Air? A Nightmare That Could Happen.” The story stated that so far, the virus was transmitted only through bodily fluids, but experts were worried about mutations in the virus leading to its spread through coughs and sneezes. Then, they quoted one of these experts who said he hadn’t been so concerned in his career of 40 years in public health. He said nothing could be more devastating than an Ebola…

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