By Eoin Molloy
Thomas Eric Duncan lost his struggle with Ebola on October 8 at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. This was the first fatality on US soil, and since his death, the world has gone Ebola-crazy. The virus has been around since 1976. Outbreaks have traditionally been confined to remote and isolated villages in tropical areas of West Africa. Ebola is thought to have originated from animals like chimpanzees, antelopes, porcupines and bats. The bushmeat of these animals is a prized delicacy in West Africa but it can also be a source of Ebola.
Ebola is an often-fatal disease, but it isn’t as contagious as the current media hype would lead you to believe. It is not airborne, nor can it be transmitted by someone sneezing in your vicinity. The passing of Ebola usually occurs through more intimate contact. Even at that, it can be dislodged if the recipient uses chlorine or bleach on the offending areas soon after contact. Our social media news-feeds are inundated with posts about Ebola with sensationalist headlines like these:
Deadly diseases are a real thing, but so is fear-mongering. Ebola is fast becoming a politicised topic. US Republicans blame Obama for the spread of Ebola (because he is of African descent, obviously). Democrat and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, lays blame squarely on the shoulders of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for approving cuts to the CDC’s budget, without which she believes we would already have a vaccine.
All of this politicisation is more dangerous than the actual disease itself because it trivialises the deaths of people who have actually contracted the virus. Ebola has become just another chess piece to be used to gain political capital. So unless you’re planning on kissing an infected person or eating your fill of dodgy West African bushmeat in the near future, don’t be too worried about contracting Ebola. The tally of 4,500 deaths so far is a tragic loss of human life, but panicking incessantly won’t stop the spread of the disease. A
ccording to the website of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, between 3,000 and 49,000 people die in America each year from common influenza, around 2,800 die from choking on objects and about 577,000 people die from cancer each year. The simple fact of the matter is this: Ebola is not the world-ending disease the media is portraying it as. It may be fatalistic to say that everyone dies sometime, but it is a fact of life.
Cancer is far more serious. Where is the panic over cancer? Over choking? Is it because these killers are familiar that we don’t get up in a heap over them? We got into a similar state of frenzy over the ‘foot and mouth’ and ‘bird flu’ diseases, but we survived those, didn’t we? Take Chris Brown’s recent tweet about the ongoing ‘pandemic’. It is wrong on so many levels:
He seems to be implying that some governmental or semi-governmental illuminate-like body has strategically planned the spread of Ebola as a means of ‘population control’. It may be funny to commentators like me, but a lot of people actually take this guy seriously.
That being said, the 24/7 Ebola coverage of fear-peddling news stations like CNN and Sky is more worrying than the misguided internet ramblings of a celebrity. This culture of continuous reporting creates a sense of urgency about the topic being reported on. Since the Malaysian Airlines debacle died down, Sky News need something to stick either side of their equally-frightening ISIS ‘terror updates.’
This 24/7 coverage does absolutely nothing to inform the viewer. All it does is create a sense of fear and panic amongst the general public, such as we are seeing now. The only time you should be worried about a pandemic is when its infection rates are so swift that TV news stations can’t keep up with it. Precautions should be taken against Ebola, sure enough, but unless you’re going to Liberia on holiday then don’t count on getting infected any time soon.
Ebola is better at selling newspapers than it is at infecting people. While sympathy for those who get infected is surely warranted, the panic and anxiety being created by the media is not.