2014 Lie of the Year: Exaggerations about Ebola

Author: Amanda Hall

Panicked claims over the spread of Ebola could make the script for a Hollywood movie.  Our team of research partners at PolitiFact grouped all of the exaggerations together to give it their 2014 ‘Lie of the Year’ distinction.

PolitiFact chooses a Lie of the Year based on “how broadly a myth or falsehood infiltrates conventional thinking.”

PolitiFact gave 16 Ebola-related claims a Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire lie rating on their Truth-O-Meter.  Politicians said Ebola was easy to catch, that illegal immigrants might carry it across the border, and some said it was all a conspiracy.

What IS fact:  Thomas Eric Duncan died of Ebola nineteen days after arriving in Dallas, TX from Liberia.  His case is one of only two Ebola-related deaths in the U.S., but panic over the outbreak spread throughout the country.

In an interview in October U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY said “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

PolitiFact rated his description as Mostly False.

Internet bloggers said the outbreak started in a bioweapons lab.  PolitiFact gave it a Pants on Fire rating.  The same is true for the online claims that President Obama intended to detain people who had signs of the illness.

A Georgia Congressman said there were reports of immigrants carrying Ebola across the southern border.  Other lawmakers said it could be a national security threat, because terrorists could carry it into the country.

Ebola has a 21-day incubation period.

Immigrants would have to get infected in Africa, fly to Mexico, then cross the border into the U.S. without dying first.  Terrorists would also have travel challenges and difficulty infecting people.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids and isn’t nearly as contagious as the flu.  Experts say there’s still a possibility that isolated cases could occur in the U.S.  What’s more likely though is that U.S. medical facilities will treat U.S. health workers returning from west africa.

To see the entire PolitiFact article, click here.

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