Lysol Buys Google Search Ads To Take Advantage Of Ebola Panic

A few weeks ago, we shared the not-at-all-surprising news that Americans are buying more cleaning supplies, especially disinfectants, than we normally do at this time of year. We can partly credit the Ebola virus. While cleanliness is rarely a bad thing and Ebola is a terrifying disease, we do have to give some side-eye to Lysol for buying ads on Google searches about Ebola.

The search result is no longer there, but Vice’s Motherboard blog took a screenshot at the time. The item urges the searcher to “learn the facts about Ebola virus from Lysol(R).” While it is clearly marked as a sponsored result, it also sat above what might be more helpful links from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, or even Wikipedia.


Even Lysol realizes that, and their “Ebola Update” page currently refers curious people over to the CDC. At the same time, the page also says:

Lysol products like Lysol Disinfectant Spray and the other products listed here are approved as hospital-grade disinfectants and though not specifically tested to kill the Ebola virus, based on their ability to kill similar as well as harder to kill viruses, these products are likely to be effective against the Ebola virus.

The problem is that diseases tend to spread person-to-person. Ebola in particular spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, which wiping down every surface in your home will not help with.

“I think this is a corporation riding on false fears of an epidemic to sell its product, thus reinforcing those fears,” a Columbia University epidemiologist told Vice.

No, Lysol hasn’t actually been tested for its ability to kill Ebola. It kills similar viruses, so it’s likely to kill Ebola. However, we like to imagine that researchers with samples of the virus are using it to work toward finding possible cures or vaccines, not testing the efficacy of cleaning solutions that are available at Walmart.

Vice takes a look back in consumer and public health history, pointing out that Lysol advertised its disinfecting power against the Spanish flu epidemic. Sure, Lysol also killed that version of influenza, but that virus was also more likely to be transmitted from person to person.

​Lysol Bought the Top Google Search Result for ‘Ebola’ [Motherboard]

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