Now this word has become a new, fearful buzz word. Remember anthrax and what any white powder could have been? The problem with the Ebola breakout is two-fold. One is that we, as a television-watching, Internet-reading community, know how deadly this virus has been.
The BBC has reported World Health Organizations numbers today. At least 4,447 people have died from this Ebola virus outbreak with the majority of these people being from West Africa. When this article was published, the WHO declares an estimated 8,914 cases of Ebola overall. This is a deadly disease and we all know it. And yet, the media is also trying to calm people.
Recently, I took a trip back to the United States and for the first time in a long time watched the nightly news. As the anchors were discussing what Ebola is and why it is so dangerous they kept mentioning over and over again that it’s not an airborne disease and that one cannot catch Ebola from being in the same room as another person with Ebola, and yet, every person who was dealing Eric Duncan, the patient in America with Ebola was wearing a hazmat suit. The people who were going to his living quarters were wearing hazmat suits and people were being quarantined.
This doesn’t make sense. Why does the news tell us we have nothing to fear when we can all see that we do? The BBC has even published an article called “How Not to Catch Ebola.”
The US media is downplaying the risk of catching Ebola by focusing on it not being an airborne contagion. But, in a way, it is. This BBC article clearly states that if a person with Ebola sneezes on a person who isn’t wearing protective gear there is a high risk of catching the disease. There are good things to know the media has reported, such as if a person doesn’t have symptoms they aren’t contagious. But this downplaying of Ebola to not cause panic is clearly going to make the disease worse. Already, a nurse who treated Eric Duncan has contracted Ebola. We have to be vigilant.
When I traveled to the USA from China I had to take off my shoes, but when I left the USA I didn’t have to take off my shoes. Does that mean the United States becoming less vigilant, or that the USA has better trained bomb sniffing dogs? I don’t know. The US has historically perceived itself as being better, more knowledgeable and more prepared. But it just feels like we aren’t. There has to be a line between fear pushing and truth-telling about something that is scary and dangerous. I just feel as though my media should tell me the truth and not just what they think I need to know.