UCSB Wins Grant to Study Ebola Fear

A team of scientists at UCSB recently won $128,202 from the National Science Foundation to study how people react psychologically to Ebola, and they hope to channel their findings into future coping mechanisms for mass anxiety, announced Rep. Lois Capps on Friday. The study will come out of the university’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, with Dr. Heejung Kim taking the helm.

In a prepared statement, Capps acknowledged the threat of Ebola and the consequential preparedness measures being taken by hospitals. But greater education about how the disease is transmitted and how transmission can be prevented are also key to minimizing the associated fear, she said. “This research will give us a better understanding of the way people respond psychologically to the threat of diseases like Ebola, and how we can help educate that response.”

More than 6,100 people have died worldwide from Ebola this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kim, in prepared remarks, noted the alarm experienced by many at the thought of contracting the disease, citing the public’s worries over swine flu and SARS in years past.

“With many of these threats, typically, the actual risk is fairly low, but the panic caused by them is usually a lot more costly to our daily and national well-being,” Kim said. “And we believe that the findings from our research may be useful in reducing these secondary costs of these contagious diseases.”

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