Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ebola Exhaustion

People are getting sick of Ebola.

No, not physically. Mentally. If you haven't noticed, it's no longer  (or rather barely) showing up in our news streams. If its September/October coverage was equivalent to a bright, newly installed high efficiency LED, today's coverage is more like a dimly flickering filament bulb that may or may not turn on the next time you flip the switch. Below is two highly telling images taken from data accumulated by running the word "ebola" through Google trends for the last year. In the first graph you can clearly see where people got interested, where they started falling off before shooting up once again in October. Now, you see the dismal crash of that interest. It is an almost unbelievable drop.

Showing Prevalence of Ebola Instances in October vs November
Even more damning of people's attention span is a couple of geographic maps. The first shows the international interest in Ebola world wide in October, and the second shows the interest in Ebola in November. Everywhere seems to have dropped off except in the places where the epidemic is still ongoing.

And there is good reason these people have yet to loose interest. Take a look at the graphs below, from the Economist, using WHO data.
The virus isn't yet showing great signs of slowing down. Uncertain reporting parameters aside, this epidemic is not yet close to over. And yet, the public seems to be done with it. It's hard to say exactly how to fix this problem, but the first step is going to be recognize it. The biggest problem with this drop off of public interest is that if people loose interest so does their money--and unfortunately this virus cant be beaten back without continued funding. The initial response from the public to ebola was great, but we need to continue to be concerned.

Economist summary:
CDC report here:

--Lauren Sweet

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