Most Americans, particularly people older than 45, think the new strain of coronavirus poses a real threat to public health, according to a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released Tuesday.
Overall, 66% of Americans said they see the virus as a real risk, but the numbers varied by age, with 57% of adults fearing the virus' risks and 72% of people older than 45 saying they are worried.
The differences may reflect news that the virus, like others in the same family including SARS, MERS, and the common cold, poses a more serious threat to older people and those with underlying health conditions.
However, people are divided about whether they are concerned about the spread of coronavirus in the United States, where only 11 people have been confirmed as having been infected:
- 56% say they're concerned about the spread.
- 55% said they are not very concerned about the virus spreading.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 31-Feb. 1 among 808 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, and of 711 registered voters, with a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points.
Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared the virus a public health emergency and announced a series of travel restrictions and a quarantine order, and most people indicated they'd gotten the message:
- 4% of Americans said they have heard nothing about the illness.
- 61% said they think the government is doing enough to prevent its spread.
- 26% said they don't think the government is doing enough.
And a smaller majority — 61% — said the government is doing enough to prevent its spread. But 26% of U.S. adults said the government is not doing enough.
William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center and the medical director of the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases, said influenza presents a "vastly larger threat" to the health of Americans, but the medical community does not know yet how the new coronavirus works, which is stoking fear.
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