Coverage of the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic on YouTube

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2015 Oct;9(5):531-5. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2015.77. Epub 2015 Jun 19.


Objective: The recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in 2014-2015 has been the largest and longest lasting to date. Media coverage about the outbreak has been extensive, but there are large gaps in our understanding of the ways in which widely accessed social media sites are used during times of public health crisis. The purpose of this study was to analyze widely viewed videos about EVD on the YouTube video-sharing site.

Methods: We coded the source, content, and characteristics of the 100 most widely viewed videos about EVD on YouTube.

Results: The videos included in the sample were viewed more than 73 million times. The death toll in West Africa was mentioned in nearly one-third of the videos. Over one-third of the videos mentioned how EVD was generally transmitted. There was little mention of treatment and no mention of the need for US funding of disaster preparedness; coordination between local, state, and federal governments; or beds ready for containment. No significant differences in the number of views were identified between video sources with the exception of a significantly higher number of views for "consumer videos" compared with "commercial television videos."

Conclusions: With 1 billion unique users a month, YouTube has potential for both enhancing education and spreading misinformation.

Keywords: Ebola; YouTube; communication; social media.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western
  • Communication
  • Communications Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Ebolavirus*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Internet*
  • Public Health / methods
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*