YouTube as a Source of Information on Ebola Virus Disease

N Am J Med Sci. 2015 Jul;7(7):306-9. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714.161244.


Background: The current West Africa epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD), which began from Guinea in December 2013, has been the longest and deadliest Ebola outbreak to date. With the propagation of the internet, public health officials must now compete with other official and unofficial sources of information to get their message out.

Aims: This study aimed at critically appraising videos available on one popular internet video site (YouTube) as a source of information for Ebola virus disease (EVD).

Materials and methods: Videos were searched in YouTube ( using the keyword "Ebola outbreak" from inception to November 1, 2014 with the default "relevance" filter. Only videos in English language under 10 min duration within first 10 pages of search were included. Duplicates were removed and the rest were classified as useful or misleading by two independent reviewers. Video sources were categorized by source. Inter-observer agreement was evaluated with kappa coefficient. Continuous and categorical variables were analyzed using the Student t-test and Chi-squared test, respectively.

Results: One hundred and eighteen out of 198 videos were evaluated. Thirty-one (26.27%) videos were classified as misleading and 87 (73.73%) videos were classified as useful. The kappa coefficient of agreement regarding the usefulness of the videos was 0.68 (P < 0.001). Independent users were more likely to post misleading videos (93.55% vs 29.89%, OR = 34.02, 95% CI = 7.55-153.12, P < 0.001) whereas news agencies were most likely to post useful videos (65.52% vs 3.23%, OR = 57.00, 95% CI = 7.40-438.74, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that majority of the internet videos about Ebola on YouTube were characterized as useful. Although YouTube seems to generally be a useful source of information on the current outbreak, increased efforts to disseminate scientifically correct information is desired to prevent unnecessary panic among the among the general population.

Keywords: Ebola; YouTube; information; videos.