Public Health Expert Explains How to Prevent a Panic About Ebola: Tell the Truth!

Happy Talk Does NOT Reassure the Public … It Only Makes Things WORSE

The head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota – Dr. Michael Osterholm – is one of the world’s top infectious disease experts and a prominent public health scientist.

Dr. Osterholm just gave a talk shown on C-Span, explaining how to prevent the public from panicking about Ebola:

I categorically reject the idea that you can’t tell people you “don’t know” … because you’re afraid you’ll scare them.

There is a complete [scientific] literature on risk communications that says people are never frightened if you tell them you don’t know, but “this is what I’m doing to learn”.  Or [if you tell them] “this is something, and it might be very scary.”

The literature shows – over and over again – there are 2 things that will turn them to be very concerned … if not scared.

One is if you tell them with certainty “A”, and then you tell them with certainty “B”, and then A and B don’t happen … or they happen in a way you didn’t tell them.  Then they wonder about your credibility.

The second thing is if you get dueling banjos.  If you get one one person saying A, and another person saying “oh, you’re going to scare people, don’t say that” … because it’s not true. The literature supports that’s when people get concerned.


One of the worst enemies we can have today is dogma. Dogma should be, at the first instance, the thing we jettison immediately Do not fall into the trap of dogma. I see far too many today doing that for the fact that they want to reassure the public about A,B or C … and that is a dangerous path.

And see this.

Dr. Osterholm gives an example: the medical community is trying to downplay the fact that some people with Ebola never have a fever … right up until the time they die. The failure to talk openly about this fact will only end up shaking people’s confidence:

(And temperature screening is easily fooled, even when an Ebola carrier does have a fever.)

One of our recurring themes is that happy talk doesn’t fix anything.

Giving false assurances only backfires … instead making people lose trust in their governments and institutions, and increasing their fear.

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  • jadan

    So, Obama hires a political operative and happy talk specialist as Ebola Czar. Having emerged from the womb of a CIA mother, Obama knows that there is no truth, there is only “perception”.

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    • MCB

      It’s not about “messaging” or politics, which is why “Obola” said that we have to cross our “T`s” and dot our “I`s.”

      • Zada

        Direct quote of Robert Oppenheimer.

  • windcatcher

    The government quarantine stand-down is the same type of government stand-down that
    took place on 9/11/01.

    The patented Ebola, a designer war germ agent, is real and is controlled by the powers in
    Washington that spent billions to develop the biological warfare agents.

    A neo-con globalist will tell you that “What is the use of having a weapon if you do not
    use it; all options are on the table”.

    Being Muslim, and black in Africa, could be a fatal condition. Better yet, Ebola can
    be used against the American terrorist that want to bring the criminals in
    Washington to Justice for Treason to the American People, our democracy, and
    the United States of America.

    The battle for Africa’s resources by Washington’s globalist is real.

    Our military objective of forming USAFRICOM is real with the addition of 4,000 new American
    “boots on the ground”. Do you think the American troops will catch Ebola or
    will they be immune to the disease?

    • blahblah4767 .

      This person is an uninformed psycho conspiracy theorist. It should terrify all of us that people like this are allowed to vote.

      • Ben Byerly

        Sure, he’s clearly nuts.

        Doesn’t mean you get to abrogate his right to vote, though.

        • antiglobalJoel

          “Conspiracy theorist” is a term coined by the CIA. Basically it means anyone who refuses to listen to and believe known pathological liars and psychopathic criminals in government.

          • Ben Byerly

            Come on, the CIA coined the term? Seriously?

            Now, the CIA, FBI, IRS, DHS and ATF have countless crimes under their belt. They’re organizations that are corrupt to the very core.

            But by spouting unbackable claims, you’re only serving as ammunition for these fascists.

            They can point at people like you, say “look how crazy they are” and dismiss all arguments against them upfront and without consideration, regardless if they’re true or not.