We've often commented here on the abysmal state of science reporting, from numerical illiteracy to giving credence to pseudoscience to ignorance of scientific principles and results. And when all three problems are combined, the results can be a hyperbolic blend of misinformation that is not only misleading, but can be downright dangerous.
This is what seems to be happening in some of the coverage of the Ebola outbreak, and it seems to be a particular problem in conservative media.
Last week, for example, I heard Michael Savage tell his evening radio audience that it is President Obama's immigration policies that led to the introduction of the virus into the United States. This despite the fact that the patient in Dallas was asymptomatic when he entered the country. So unless everyone entering the country is tested for the virus, there is no way to know who is ill and who isn't.
Then Chris Wallace on Fox News asked suggested that Ebola could be used as a terror weapon. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says airborne pathogens are a much worse form of bioterrorism, rather than diseases that have to be spread by direct contact.
Another Fox News host, Andrea Tantaros said West Africans who come to the United States and are infected with Ebola might rather go to what she termed a "witch doctor" rather than a hospital. Well, we might remember that the Dallas patient from Liberia did go to a hospital, where he was first misdiagnosed.
Moving from television to Twitter, the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, Todd Kincannon, has recommended that anyone infected or exposed to Ebola should be immediately executed, and African villages where the virus is present should be napalmed.
Ebola is certainly a scary disease, but scare headlines and misinformation will do absolutely nothing to stop its spread or help the public.