But Americans’ concern is selective
I am not a germophobe. You can cough on me, and I probably won’t even flinch. I do not believe in hand sanitizer. I do not always wipe down equipment at the gym.
I also am not a hypochondriac. I am someone who, while coughing and sneezing, still makes it to her 8:30 a.m. classes.
With winter fast approaching, I’m used to seeing all the people around me bathing themselves in Bath & Body Works mini hand sanitizers and rushing to get their flu shots. This year, however, things are different. This year, people are putting on hazmat suits.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa this past summer has sparked panic around the world. The numbers were shocking: according to the CDC, almost 5,000 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
So many people have died so quickly, and now that the disease has come to the United States, a lot of Americans are very worried. Their fear is partially due to fear-mongering by the news media, but there’s another important reason that people are afraid: now, this virus is a threat to “us” instead of just “them.”
When the Ebola outbreak began, it was contained in West Africa. It had nothing to do with “us.” People heard the numbers of people dying in these countries, shook their heads and said, “Oh, that’s awful,” then went back to their dinners. But now that some of the medical professionals who travelled to those affected areas have come back with the virus, “we” have something to worry about.
Since the Ebola outbreak began, more than 300,000 people have died from malaria. Malaria is a curable disease, but because of underserved hospitals and inadequate medical care, thousands of people die from the disease every year. In that same time, about 600,000 people have died of tuberculosis, which we have a vaccination for here in the United States.
People are afraid of Ebola because it’s in our country and we don’t have a cure for it, but the situation is infinitely better here. In the United States, if someone has Ebola, he or she will be contained and treated, and the virus is not likely to spread. In West Africa, you will not have access to that kind of treatment.
Instead of throwing your money towards sanitizing products that have been proven to only strengthen bacteria in the long run, instead of panicking about a disease that will very likely not directly affect you, instead of ignoring a global problem until it’s on your doorstep, maybe we should think a little more critically, try to see the deeper causes of a problem and then work together to make life better not only for ourselves, but for the rest of our world.
Visit unicefusa.org for information on how to support efforts to distribute health information and medical supplies in African countries affected by the outbreak.