Thursday, October 16, 2014

Earlier this week this article was released on World.Mic: "One Powerful illustration shows exactly what's wrong with how the West talks about Ebola."

In this scathing article, white privilege and first world apathy is charged as the perpetuators of this media fiasco. 

To be completely honest, I'm quite sick of everyone painting the west as ignorant of/complacent in the sufferings of Africa. The Department of Defense has poured millions of dollars into research as early as April - well before any cases reached the United States. When Americans abroad were infected, the media touted 'secret serum' or ZMapp was administered to them in a ditch effort to save them. It happened to work. ZMapp, an experimental antibody based drug, has not been extensively human tested and was in limited supply - the 'cure' could have easily killed the patients with a massive autoimmune response. 

Many have argued administrating this drug to white Americans in conjunction with our media coverage is indicative of implicit racism, classism, or just us not giving a shit about the third world. It makes sense to administer the few available samples to American citizens because, at the end of the day, the American government has an obligation to its citizens. Furthermore, it makes sense for there to be a media circus over an Ebola case in the US. The American public is grossly misinformed/ignorant on disease, immunity, and standards of health. People are panicking and the media has a story to sell. As for the notion of 'us vs them' and 'deaths in Asia/Africa are just as tragic as those in the US/Europe,' obviously they are just as tragic. Any loss of human life is. However, culturally and economically speaking, the US and Europe are much more comparable than the US and Africa, or the US and Asia. Much of the hardships faced in Africa are difficult to relate to simply because most Americans cannot fathom that level of crippling poverty, poor sanitation, and inadequate healthcare. So yes, when people in Europe die from disease, we get a little more worried. While the assertion that there are 'first world diseases' and 'third world diseases' is true as far as epidemic distribution, Ebola is an exception. Malaria is a 'third world' disease. Polio is a 'third world' disease. Hell, influenza is a 'third world' disease. What they have in common is that they are all well understood and have cures or vaccines available against them. Ebola is truly horrifying. As an exotic virus from a relatively poorly researched viral family, this emergent disease is very worrisome. Its dramatic fashion of killing and historically lethal outbreaks make this particular epidemic worth attention. 

Furthermore, Ebola exhibits a high amount of genetic instability that can lead to some very troubling adaptations. Ebola Resdon, for example, was a strain that emerged from the Philippines that was seemingly human inert but was thought to be airborne. Historical Ebola outbreaks have been limited to a few hundred cases at most - this particular epidemic has infected thousands. Each infection is a chance for future mutation and an increase of virulence factor. Therefore, I really don't think the Ebola outbreak is a fair comparison for other 'third world' diseases. As for the comment from fearing migrants, while obviously most immigrants/migrants/foreigners are not infected with some flavor of exotic disease, it is prudent to exercise some caution in light of the current epidemic. 

-Alex Lindqwister

Link to article:

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