No, the University of Minnesota Isn't Saying Ebola Is Suddenly Airborne


As worries over the Ebola virus have grown, the crazy stories have popped up right beside it (need we mention the ridiculous Ebola zombie hoax?). But a new one has surfaced, and it sounds just realistic enough to maybe be true.

"EBOLA TRANSMITTED BY AIR," reads one headline from the conservative site Breitbart. Political columnist George Will said the same thing. Interesting, both pinned their stories on the same source: the University of Minnesota. The meme has remained afloat in the weird world of the right-wing blogosphere, on sites like Town Hall and CNS News.

So should we be worried? In a word, no.

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The University says there's nothing to them. It was actually forced to come out and publicly denounce the blogged articles, explaining in a response on its website that no one at the university ever "made claims that 'Ebola is Airbone' or that 'Ebola [is] Transmittable by Air,'" with Breitbart and other sites simply sensationalizing some basic science.

The actual drama comes from a blog post from the U of M's Center for Disease Research and Policy, written by a few experts at the University of Illinois in Chicago about a month ago.

The post is full of a ton of scientific jargon, but we'll summarize the basic gist of it: Scientists think Ebola can be transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids. And if a nurse is close enough (like, really close), then a sneeze or a cough ending up in their eyes or mouth might be dangerous. So they should make sure to wear strong protection while treating patients.

Seems like good advice, right? The U of M agrees, saying the post, "is based on sound science and (the U of M) believes it is an important consideration in the safety of healthcare workers who provide care to Ebola patients."

What none of that says, though, is that Ebola is suddenly able to travel through the air. But it seems that Breitbart and their blogger brethren wouldn't let that get in the way of a good story. So they found the post, completely misinterpreted it, and added a bit of sensationalization.

None of this is to say that Ebola isn't bad. The mortality rate for the disease is still lofty, varying from 20 to 90 percent percent. And Minnesota officials have been prepping heavily over the past week to protect the state from the disease, checking travelers on the daily and holding exercises to make sure agencies are ready.

But when a disease is already dangerous enough as is, why the need to make it sound worse?

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.