Thursday, July 31, 2014

Primates, genus and the Congo: Who is CDC writing for?

More... Language Acting Badly

Today, I'm taking top tier headline news about Ebola to see how easy or difficult it is for the public to find understandable information from trusted sources.  

Here’s a quick health literacy load analysis of the first 2 paragraphs of what the public encounters at the CDC website's primary landing page about  Ebola.  accessed 7-31-14 7:00am

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. When infection occurs, symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.

Health Literacy Load Analysis (here just focusing on 2 categories - fundamental literacy & science literacy). 

Fundamental Literacy: Primary language acting badly in this text: Vocabulary
Numerous  (often)
Abruptly (all of a sudden)
Sporadically (off and on; from time to time)
Viral hemorrhagic fever, (pronunciation cues would have been useful) – virus is a more universally comprehended word
Filoviradae, genus Ebolavirus - Other technical terms that could appear later or in less significant position of first paragraphs –
Sentence structure – harder to read passive verbs: “is caused by” (Infection from 2 different kinds of viruses causes Ebola)

Science Literacy: Basic science concepts the text assumes readers understand
Relationship between viruses inprimates and other hosts, like humans. 
     Why is it important that primates get the disease? Should I not visit zoos?
What is a family of viruses? Genus?
Viruses have “species”
Viruses are discovered – what’s the significance that the virus was discovered in 1979?  In Congo? Can you get the virus from the river?
What a person with average to low literacy or low health literacy might take away about Ebola:
Ebola is a fever. It comes from animals like monkeys. You have to have the virus in your family to get sick. Infection begins. They discovered the Congo near a river in 1976.

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