Friday, 17 October 2014

Vox Populi

Kelly stopped vacuuming and poked her head through the living room door on her way to doing the stairs.

“So, what about this Ebola then.”

"It’s scary.”

“Yeah, it is. Very. Have you heard? They’re looking for a whole planeload of people. One of them nurses went on a plane to a party, a wedding or something, and she was already sick. Had a fever, which is when you’re most contagious.”

“Really? No I hadn’t heard.”

“They’re saying it was a real cock-up, the hospital not noticing and letting her go when she was already sick. It could be all over the place by now."

“Hm, that sounds extremely careless. And dangerous."

“It’s criminal. I’m going to start stockpiling. I don’t want to get it.”

She laughed, but I could tell she was at least half serious. She patted the wooden cupboard just inside the door with the flat of her hand for luck.

“I don’t want to get it,” still laughing nervously and patting the cupboard again, “not me and my kids anyway. Everyone else will have to look after theirselves. It could be like the pest again. They say it could have been Ebola that time when all them people died of the black pest and that it could spread like that again. It was all over the news.”

Kelly was by no means finished. Breathlessly, she continued. "It always happens when there’s too many people. Diseases and wars, I mean. And what they’re really worried about is that the virus mutates and becomes airborne. I’m getting prepared, at least with getting a few things in stock. You never know.”

No, you never know.

I don’t know Kelly’s source of information but it must be popular mass media, what else could it be. She withdrew her head and turned her attention back to the vacuum cleaner. Kelly is by no means a callous, uncaring person with an eye to the main chance. She is a professional carer (as well as a cleaner for a few select clients)  and the way she speaks about her charges gives me the impression that she genuinely cares about the aged and frail. There are many around like Kelly in the West, ordinary, decent, hard working people who worry about many things; could this be the beginning of world wide panic? I hope not. I hope that those 'who know', in other words ‘They’, know what they’re doing. Does that sound at all likely to you? After all, had they woken up sooner to the disaster unfolding in West Africa, the outbreak might still have been containable. But that was West Africa, a long way away from our hygienically safe world.

o-o-o


PS:  Her morning’s job done and making ready to leave, Kelly shouted up the stairs: “See you next week. Unless I’ve got Ebola by then. Byyyyeeee!"




37 comments:

  1. There is of course, strong reason for concern, but the unreasoning of the media and its consequences, of which Kelly's response is just a small example, worry me as much, if not more. This is exactly why I stopped watching the TV news altogether, and only take fleeting glances at the NY Times, this ginning up of unreasoned fear. It's quite interesting to get the perspective of Sophie, a blog pal who lives in Mali, on this. She may understate somewhat, but I have to say I trust her account more than I do most of what passes for news. (Her blog is djenne djenno. The title of her 10/10 post, Ebola psychosis deepening, sort of says it all.)

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  2. Now that the media is frantically cranking out news to us 24/7, stories are sensationalized, beaten to death, every aspect of them wrung out to nth degree. And yet in spite of all the U.S. hospitals blithely announcing that sure, they're ready to handle an Ebola emergency, evidence says otherwise.
    Nope - my confidence in "Them" isn't very strong.

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  3. Unfortunately she represents many people in her understanding of the illness. By now you probably know this patient has been moved to a hospital only an hour from me. We ignored all those poor black people who are now living in a terrible nightmare and we will have to pay our dues. I will probably limit my going out and about, but I do that every winter anyway so that I avoid flu.

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  4. Hi Friko - I wish we could be presented with the truth simply put ... the media are appalling spreaders of the verbal pox ... such negative, exponential rubbish - which many believe - without thinking ... Ebola is a rather unfortunate disease to hit the world right now - and the poor people in West Africa ... I feel for them.

    The worst is .. if we want to care for someone in distress ... we reach out physically to hug them, cuddle them .. and that's the worst here - the no touching ... I feel so much for those in West Africa.

    But if only those 'Theys' ... those in charge ... of all subjects could tell us straight ... that would make a great deal of difference ... I gather South Africa put in airport protection, such as is possible, in the early Summer - seems strange no-one picked up on it ...

    Education is going to be so difficult for the African nation .... Bless Kelly I say ... cheers Hilary

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  5. I find it immeasurably sad that 4000 plus West Africans can die of Ebola without much worry in the world. When two Americans get the disease there is a huge uproar, flights to the USA, special medications and more. At least it brought awareness of the African's plight.

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  6. This is one of the best examples of avoiding the 24/7 "news" networks. Really...Sanja Gupta using chocolate syrup to demonstrate how easy it is to breach protocol? Give me a break.

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  7. Her last words aren't funny. This dead illness is enough contagious.Thank the God, we have not yet patients here and you in UK, Friko.

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  8. It all goes to show that unless The Media grabs a story, we're left in the dark, and out and about not worrying about anything...
    Or, this is a plot to re-direct our attention.
    Or, finally, we're concerned about Ebola!

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  9. Dear Friko, there's growing concern here among the population. I wonder why, given this concern and perhaps paranoia, the media doesn't always--I mean every time--they talk about Ebola explain how its transmitted. That would allay most concerns. Peace.

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  10. There's always a new worry. Only, it's not new.. it just now finally concerns an extended population. That, and the media fuels panic.

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  11. Quite a few of my doctors are at Emory University Hospital. I have kept my appointments with them. The three patients that have been flown there are not walking around in the general population. It is unfortunate that these two nurses got sick. I feel for them and their families. It is even more unfortunate that one of them didn't have the sense to not travel while she was sick. I wonder what she was thinking. Another healthcare worker in out in the middle of the ocean on a cruise ship and being monitored. If I were on that plane or that boat I might be checking myself for a fever, but realize that the chance that I came in contact with any of their bodily fluids is negligible. If the virus gets out in the general population I will travel with Clorox wipes and stay out of public bathrooms and buffets. I will dip any food that I'm going to eat raw in a mild Clorox bath before I eat them. I might even consider refusing to shake hands with anyone. But I can't see the mania that is going on here. We've had treatment resistant TB in the general population for a decade and no one is concerned about that. Even going into a hospital we are more likely to encounter MRSA than Ebola. I think that the CDC would do well to hand out tee shirts that say "Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands".

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  12. I always go back and read other comments after I leave my own. Kelly has a bit of misinformation. The nurse called our Center for Disease Contron and asked them if it was okay to fly. She had a temp of 99c and someone told her yes it was okay. She was not at the most contagious stage, however, all the passengers have been located, and are now quarentined. Ditto people they came in contact with, including a whole primary school.

    I for one am not panicking yet. SARS was much worse, also legionaries disease. I am flying to California in 10 days, and through O'Hare in Chicago. If I get Ebola and die that's the way it goes. I just don't want to spread it to anyone else.

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    1. The fact that the second nurse called the CDC in the first place puzzles me. Not that I think that it will happen, but if I am exposed to ebola and start running a fever the first thing I'd do is walk in the emergency room of Emory University Hospital and tell them my situation. If they sent me away, I'd go down the street to the CDC. I would consider my life in danger and not take no for an answer. That's why I am dumbfounded by the fact that she felt she was fine to fly.

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  13. The media, who like to tell us not just the news, but what we should think about it, are shameless the way they stoke the fires of public panic. I'd like to believe that the "they" you speak of know what they're doing bu,t thus far, all evidence is to the contrary.

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  14. Good post. I can see both sides of the argument but I am inclined to fall on the "let's wait and see what happens before we all panic" camp. We've been here before with bird flu.

    Greetings from London.

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  15. Not to be flip, but at times like this I like to remember a favorite saying of a woman with whom I worked when I was in my twenties. She used to say, "If you're born to get shot, you won't get hung."

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  16. Had to chuckle at June's comment. Having said that, as an American I am disturbed by the CDC's mishandling of our situation with ebola. Hopefully, they are now getting a better grip on how to go forward. It seems sad to me and unnecessary that nurses at Dallas Presbyterian were not better prepared by the CDC for protecting themselves against contracting ebola from the initial patient. I think all will be well if have good protocols in place and follow them. The worrisome thing is that I'm not yet convinced that is happening.

    "/

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  17. The CDC doesn't seem to have been on top of Ebola the way they were with H1N1. I feel terrible for the people who suffer from it, but I don't fear it. I don't fear much of anything. I might not get sick if I spend every minute in my house and don't allow anything in or out--not even fresh air. I'm not willing to live that way. I'll get my flu shot and take the usual precautions. Was Kelly talking about the plague or the flu pandemic of 1918?

    Love,
    Janie

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  18. It seems to me that it has become a subject to fill in the News and Newspapers ! Real panic makers. It is indeed a terrible disease, but there are so many others too ! In Belgium at the airport the employees refused to unload the luggage from all planes coming from Africa !! Now they arrive in a special place !

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  19. The Media has a circus day with stories like the sadness of this disease - yes, it has killed many people, but regular flu's and aids and others have killed millions too. It does go to show that in this highly immunized world, someone ain't doing their job - looks to me like another Medical scare. Spread a story long enough, sensationalize it enough and many begin to believe they will be next! I also like June's comment - and I believe, whatever way we are to go out of this world, we will go, regardless - so all I know is I am living till its my turn - the heck with the Media blowing facts outta proportion. Give Kelly my best :)

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  20. yes, the media is having a field day with this. It's partly the midterm elections here in the US that are giving the politicians something to make a big deal about. I'm sure that we will NOT all be dying of ebola in a few weeks. That's not true for those in Africa, though.

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  21. My chances of getting ebola are far less than my chances of getting brutalized or killed by a cop during a traffic stop.

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  22. I'm puzzled - what exactly is Kelly going to stockpile? Disinfectants? Medicines? Food? Are there shortages of vital supplies that the media hasn't warned us about yet? I feel another conspiracy theory looming.

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  23. The media like a story -- that said, given how connected the world is via air these days, it's a bit worrying to think how quickly this virus could spread. Yes, of course something should have been done MUCH earlier to help the African counties in the battle against Ebola.

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  24. I don't watch the news. I hear plenty of important and unimportant bits of information, regardless. I can imagine the press getting ahold of anything negative like this and wringing every scary moment out of it they can muster because it's good for their business. They must have been thrilled to hear it. I swear that people must like to be scared and angry because the news reports remain filled with fuel for them.

    Terrible, cruel things are always happening somewhere. Awful illnesses are always happening somewhere. Natural disasters are always happening somewhere. I try to live each day like it's my last so that I'm okay with whatever might happen in my life...and to always remember to pray for the rest of the world, too...which has gotten smaller and smaller. ;)

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  25. http://www.whitehouse.gov/ebola-response?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=email383-video&utm_campaign=ebola

    hunh! But if we're doing so much about Ebola . . . then what're we doin' about that damn flu that kills so many more people?????
    That g.d. United States . . . getting into everybody's business...

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  26. I lived and worked in Liberia. I arrived there the year after Esther Bacon died of Lassa fever -- another hemorrhagic fever. Lassa and Ebola both are endemic in Liberia, and those of us who worked in public health capacities of one sort or another were well aware of their existence. Granted, malaria, measles, and malnutrition killed more, but that's only because they killed thousands every year.

    I've been tracking this latest outbreak since about January of 2013. It was isolated for a time on the Liberia/Guinea border, and might have been contained at that point, allowed to burn itself out as it has in the past. But times have changed, and travel even within the countries of West Africa is far easier. It wasn't long before it moved from that border into the interior of the country, and hence to Monrovia. Then, it began to spread -- to Sierra Leone, and other countries.

    Unfortunately, the situation was complicated by the fact that Liberia recently has experienced two devasting civil wars. There is no medical infrastructure. The hospital where I worked was destroyed during the second civil war, and the first attempts at rebuilding, though good, were not far enough alone to endure a large-scale ebola outbreak.

    Once the disease reached the urban centers of Monrovia, Freetown, and so on, it was inevitable that someone would get on a plane and the die would be cast. It also was inevitable that much of the aid money that has flowed into Liberia has gone into the pockets of bureaucrats and officials. It was an old joke when I arrived in country that the USA gave Liberia both a model for a constitution and a model for corruption. That's never changed.

    I will grant you that the media has not been helpful. I also am appalled at the amount of misinformation circulating on social media. But the biggest mistake that has been made, and is being made at this very moment, is for US officials to treat this as a political problem rather than a situation calling for virologists, epidemiologists, and medical statisticians, to track outbreaks and contact tracing.

    The US people are not racist. The Liberian people are partly culpable. The media should go find another issue. We should regard quarantine as a tool, just as we did during polio, scarlet fever, smallpox, and the flu pandemic of 1918.

    Me? I know how to live in a disease-ridden third world country. I'm ready. :)

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    1. Emend: "The Liberian leaders are partly culpable."

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    2. I so appreciate this reply. Thank you, Shoreacres!

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  27. Ebola is a scary disease, but I don't think we need to worry too much.
    Unless it does become airborne. Then I'll be wearing a mask everytime I go outside.

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  28. Fun post. Marty Damon nailed it, imho.

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  29. oy ebola is all the buzz...from news to talk shows to sitcoms....and my kids at school are eating it up...some black humor to take the scare off a bit...but scary too when it gets out of hand...we had some bullying of a missionary's kids who just came back from an uninfected country...

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  30. It sounds like the past weekend in Cleveland. Ebola is all over the news in the states. You can't watch CNN without having an hour of Ebola here peppered with inserts about ISIS/ISIL and our latest racial problems. Three stories. I'm wondering what's going on in Ukraine.

    I can't say I'm too eager about flying despite its not being considered airborne (but then the way I cough, people probably think I have it). I was in Cleveland for a few days, near Akron where the nurse flew, spent several hours in a bridal shop trying on gowns and then got sick. Everyone there is in panic. The shop is closed and even though the Ebola can't live on a surface like a gown more than 24 hours, I suspect their inventory is shot too -- if people will ever go back. Sad, as this woman has built her business over a lifetime. They closed schools there, too. Panic. I will say I'm even more careful about washing my hands and such, but as a woman with a very fragile immune system and flu season coming on, I need to do that anyway.

    I suppose it could be a terrible bio-terror weapon if it came to that but right now, I'm laying a little bit lower on watching the news and hoping that they can ramp up the medical treatment, care, protocols quickly to help stop this from going beyond what it already is.

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  31. It's a pity we can't trust much media information - it's how a great deal of us try to keep track of world events. If we take normal disease prevention precautions, wash our hands thoroughly and often, and do our best to find reliable information rather then sensationalized misinformation, we should be as well as can be.

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  32. the virus isn't going to mutate and turn airborne. A virologist said on the news last week that that has NEVER happened in the history of the world. No virus has ever mutated from non-airborne to airborne.

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  33. My favorite part of this thought-provoking post is the cheery, faintly-macabre, goodbye she shouted up the stairs.

    On the other end of the continuum from worriers like Kelly are my students, who seem strangely unaware of Ebola (this can't be true, of course; they do hear the news). This week, they all had to create brainstorms of potential topics for research papers; the one parameter was that the topics had to be "changes in the last ten years." Predictably, they all put "obesity is on the rise"--but only ONE wrote down Ebola. Hmmm.

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  34. World wide panic - well, I don't know about world wide, but here in the US it often sounds like panic. Thanks to the media of course. The messages we get are mixed. I personally am not scared, but I hate this fear mongering. And I also feel that it is easy to put many Americans into a fearful state - especially before elections! (how handy). I never had this impression with people in Europe during all of the 40 years I lived there. Odd.

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