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Poll: Americans Think Ebola Is a Bigger Health Problem Than Cancer and Obesity

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Surgeon Martin Salia, who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, died Monday in a Nebraska hospital, becoming the second person to die of the virus in the U.S.

Meanwhile, an estimated 540,000 people have died of cancer so far this year, and another 100,000 from conditions related to obesity.

But a Gallup poll released Monday found that Americans consider Ebola a more urgent health problem than either cancer or obesity. Respondents ranked only healthcare costs and healthcare access higher than Ebola.

About one in six Americans believe Ebola to be the nation’s top health problem, and while the numbers are consistent across gender and age groups, people’s views differ by level of education. 22 percent of people who never attended college and 19 percent with some degree of college experience list Ebola as the number one issue, while only 11 percent of those with at least a four-year college degree feel the same. 

Episodic health panics are nothing new: In the wake of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, Americans named bioterrorism as the primary health concern of 2001, while in 2005, bird flu soared up the charts due to predictions of an impending global influenza pandemic.