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Ebola alters travel plans, Robert Morris University poll finds

| Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

More than half of Americans are concerned about the Ebola virus, and nearly 10 percent say they will alter their holiday travel plans as a result, according to a Robert Morris University poll released Monday.

The Polling Institute at RMU released the poll of 1,004 adults nationwide on a range of topics and found that 54.1 percent are very or somewhat concerned about the Ebola virus.

That includes the 9.7 percent who said they're likely to cancel their travel plans or have done so because of the virus. There were four cases of the virus diagnosed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One patient, a man who traveled from Liberia to Dallas died.

Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said holiday travelers shouldn't be worried about canceling holiday travel unless “they're planning on going to West Africa.”

“(The United States) is technically Ebola-free now,” Hacker said. “The only people that have been infected (in the U.S.) were medical workers, and they had very close contact with patients, including bodily fluids. This virus is not spread through the air.”

Hacker pointed to the fear surrounding a plane ride earlier this year taken by a Texas nurse who had been exposed and later developed the disease, and noted there were no known cases stemming from that trip.

“But as long as we do not have control of the outbreaks in those (West African) countries, there is a risk to see it in this country again,” Hacker said.

The poll was conducted online from Nov. 24 to Dec. 5. It asked responders about their holiday charity and depression.

About 63 percent said they plan to make donations during the holiday season — 64 percent in Pennsylvania — and almost 41 percent said they expect to face some level of holiday depression.

“At Christmastime, people's hearts are open, and most nonprofits work hard to be visible to donors,” said Peggy Morrison Outon, executive director of the Bayer Center for non-profit management at RMU. “The research bears out that more people give more at the end of the year. It's part of a lot of people's traditions. The data is all very consistent with previous years.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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