The Truth About Ebola Term Paper Sample

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Health, Medicine, Disease, Viruses, Media, Ebola Virus, Fear, Africa

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/23

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In March 2014, the Ebola epidemic began to hit some African nations. About 23,000 people had been infected by the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone and as of February 17 of this year, a total death of 9,300 persons had been registered. Nigeria and Senegal had been recently declared epidemic-free. Most of the Ebola cases were registered in Sierra Leone, i.e. 11,103 cases and most deaths in Liberia, i.e. 3,900. The CDC believed that the key to containing the spread of the disease is fast and timely intervention. The West African epidemic happened because intervention did not start sooner, but only belatedly in August and early September. Early intervention means isolating an Ebola patient from others to prevent the transmission of the disease. Such isolation could take place in a hospital, Ebola treatment unit, or even at home. Any person who died of the virus should also be buried immediately (Sun and Fairfield 2014). Researchers who conducted a research on Ebola traced the disease to fruit bats as the putative virus reservoir of the disease. They were also able to trace the spread of the disease from the individual who bought fruits bats from hunters for food and the transmission of disease from that person to the next resulting in the epidemic (cited Seay and Dionne 2014). Meanwhile, the Ebola fear is engulfing the US fueled by media frenzy on the subject. Much of this fear stemmed from a cultural misunderstanding rooted in a xenophobic perspective of Africa as a dark, poor and diseased continent.

Ebola and Cultural Misunderstandings

Much of the panic and fear surrounding Ebola has been generated by lack of understanding of the disease and the misinformation generated by the media about the disease. The fear of the disease is also rooted in the fact that it is happening in Africa, a continent that many Americans associate with poverty, war and diseases. The media has a lot to do with the xenophobic-tinged fear of the disease. Grounder observed (2014) that many information generated by the media are ‘skewed’ and are deliberately made scary to generate and attract patronage. Kleeman (2014), on the other hand, noted the media frenzy over Ebola fueling further panic and fear of the disease despite President Obama’s statement that the US health structure makes an Ebola epidemic almost impossible.
An example of media misinformation on the disease is the August 21, 2014 issue of Newsweek, which showed on its cover a half-body picture of a chimpanzee with the article title “A Back Door for Ebola” in big bold letters and underneath in smaller letters “Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark an Epidemic.” On the inside pages, a story with the same heading tells the story of how bushmeat of cane rats are prized delicacy of African-born Americans. The authors cited that in 2007, before the Ebola epidemic in Africa occurred, a memo originating from customs officers and agriculture specialists warning bushmeat as a potential source of diseases such as SARS, monkeypox, and the Ebola virus, among others. They then cited US Customs and Border Protection statistics showing 69,000 types of bushmeats confiscated from 2009 to 2013 (Flynn and Scutti 2014).
Seay and Dionne (2014) observed that Newsweek, like most media has overblown the Ebola epidemic painting a doomsday scenario that reaches even the US. The authors pointed out that the Newsweek article presented an impossible scenario not only because bushmeat had not been determined as the origin or carrier of the Ebola virus, but also because Africans do not usually eat chimpanzee meat. The Newsweek article had, in fact, relied only on one informant for the article who indicated cane rats as the usually smuggled bushmeat into the country. Cane rats, however, had never been found to carry the Ebola virus. The authors criticized media in general as perpetuating an image of a dirty and diseased Africa.
Even in the 1990s before the outbreak of Ebola, filmmakers had already painted the African continent as the origin of some Ebola-like deadly virus that spread to the US. In the movie “Outbreak,” which seemed to have been the inspiration of the Newsweek article, a virus called Motaba was initially discovered early on in an African jungle. The virus is so deadly because it liquefied organs with patients vomiting blood. When the virus resurfaced several decades later in an African country, the virus spread to the US carried by a white monkey. As the monkey came into contact with people and other animals, the virus also spread exponentially. Chaos ensued after that forcing the imposition of martial law and the containment of the place where the virus has spread and eventually an operation to bomb the entire area (Warner Bros 1997).
The panic on the Ebola virus did not begin with the virus outbreak in Africa in March of last year, but in the arrival of Thomas Duncan in America. Duncan came from Liberia and contracted the disease there. This goes to show, according to Kleeman (2014) that Americans do not really care what is happening in Africa until it happens in the country. Tweets about Ebola were minimal prior to the Duncan case, but frantically spiked on the day he was found to have contracted the disease and undergoing treatment in Dallas.
The fear that escalated as a result of the scaremongering re the Ebola virus has led the Department of Justice to counter the discriminatory tone tied to the disease (Swarts 2014). It issued on December 15, 2015 a non-discrimination guideline in the response to the Ebola virus. One of the discrimination principles is to avoid bullying African-born individuals and those coming from African countries treating them with discrimination for fear that they may be carriers of the Ebola virus. The DOJ bulletin provides that any person suspected of having Ebola must be determined if he or she has prior contact with the fluids of a person suffering from the disease and any other method of examination that goes overboard or underpinned by sheer fear is discriminatory and are unlawful (DOJ 2014)..

Conclusion: Managing Western Fear of Ebola

As a responsible healthcare provider with knowledge about the cultural misunderstandings tied to the Ebola virus, I am obligated to educate and inform as many as I can regarding the truth about the disease. The starting point, of course, is the people I deal with on the daily basis. I will try as best as I can to inform people that much of the information being fed by the media is exaggerated and overblown although care to prevent from being infected by any disease, Ebola or not, is always necessary. Keeping oneself healthy is important, but discriminating against others because of their color or the country they came from is discriminatory and a sign of ignorance. Although it is true that some West African nations have debilitated by the Ebola virus in the last year, this does not mean that every person from that part of the world is a carrier of the disease. More importantly, I will try to inform those I come into contact with that the disease is not about to spread in the US and even if there are isolated cases of Ebola infection in the country as the President said “America’s structure precludes an outbreak” (cited Kleeman 2014) of the disease. The disease can be contained if infected patients are isolated from others and intervention is fast and timely, as what the Center for Disease and Protection stated. Right now, the danger of the disease spreading in the US is very remote and the isolated cases are getting excessive media coverage because it is happening in the country. Prior to this, US media did not have anything much to do with the Ebola virus although some Western African nations have been reeling in the past year because of the epidemic. I will, thus, assure people that they are not in danger of getting the disease because the Ebola virus has not spread in the country and even the involved African nations are starting to contain the disease.


DOJ 2014. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division Issues Non-Discrimination Principles to Guide Federal, State and Local Governments' Response to the Ebola Virus. Justice News, Department of Justice. Accessed 19 February 2014. discrimination-principles-guide-federal
Flynn, G and Scutti, S. 2014. Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola's Back Door to America. Newsweek.
Gounder, C. (2014). Remember the movie ‘Outbreak?’ Yeah, Ebola’s not really like that. Reuters. Accessed 18 February 2014. debate/2014/08/14/remember-the-movie-outbreak- yeah-ebolas-not-really-like-that/
Kleeman, S. (2014). One Powerful Illustration Shows Exactly What's Wrong With How the West Talks About Ebola. World.Mic. Accessed 19 February 2014. with-media-coverage-of-ebola
NYTimes 2015. How Many Ebola Patients Have Been Treated Outside of Africa? The New York Times. Accessed 16 February 2014. outbreak- qa.html?_r=0
Seay, L. and Dionne, K. 2014. The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place. Washington Post. Accessed 19 February 2014. and-the-history-and-politics-of-pointing-at- immigrants-as-potential-disease-vectors/
Sun, A. and Fairfield, H. (2014). How the Speed of Response Defined the Ebola Crisis. New York Times. Accessed 16 February 2014.
Swarts, P. 2015. Justice Dept. looks to stem discrimination tied to Ebola outbreak. Washington Times. Accessed 15 February 2014. descrimination/
Warner Bros (1997). Outbreak.

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