Thursday, December 4, 2014

Did Ebola steal attention away from Chikungunya?

Today in class we talked about Ebola exhaustion and just no one talking about Ebola anymore. There are many reasons this happens. A big one is that people have limited attention spans and can only focus on one or a small number of pressing issues at a time. This article brings up Chikungunya which never really got global media coverage in the first place. The major epidemic on South America has mainly been unnoticed outside of the continent. Is this because people can only focus on one global health issue at a time or is there another reason why no one is paying attention to it?

Chikungunya virus is a mosquito borne virus that's infected almost 1 million people since it emerged in South America last year. The Dominican Republic has recorded 500,000 cases and El Salvador has recorded 123,000 cases. While the number of cases is extremely high and the virus is contagious, it isn't too infectious in that the mortality rate is low. Only 150 people have died. The US has had 1,830 cases. Americans only started caring about Ebola when a few Americans got infected. How come this media coverage didn't happen when 1830 Americans got infected with Chikungunya? It's simple, it's not as sexy of a disease. It doesn't have as high of a mortality rate.

Although Chikungunya has a low mortality rate, it still causes painful symptoms in >80% of those infected and makes people miss work and incurs medical expenses. Common symptoms are painful,swollen joints, fever, headache, fatigue, rash, and more. What makes this epidemic worse is that it is affecting some of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Reducing the work force of these poorer countries will hurt them even more in the future.

Chikungunya (& all neglected tropical diseases) need more media coverage so they can get more funding to combat them with public health interventions.

- Jimmy


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