Outbreaks, epidemics and even pandemics have plagued the world throughout history. Humanity has not been inflicted with one in quiet some time as modern medicine has been able to thwart diseases like the bird flu and H1N1.
But what if a new and currently incurable virus were to take root and threaten global populations?
Ebola is not a new disease and has been around for years, but it was not until recently that it made headlines after a massive outbreak in west Africa. According to the New York Times, more than 4,300 cases of Ebola have been recorded in the last six months in the African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
The death toll has already risen to 2,300 individuals in these countries and the World Health Organization has warned that there could be thousands of new cases per week by early October.
The Ebola epidemic is half a world away. You may be asking yourself, ‘how does this affect me?’ Being fortunate enough to live in a developed country with the best medicines and preventative medical care should ease your fears and help you sleep easily at night. However, living in a developed country also means that everything and everyone is interconnected as globalization allows people, places and spaces to become smaller, closer and more accessible.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who lied about his whereabouts and entered the country illegally, was the first person to contract and spread the virus to civilians in the United States.
Due to his careless actions, more than 100 heath care providers in Dallas were exposed to Ebola and two nurses have currently been diagnosed and tested positive for the incurable disease. In addition, one of the nurses traveled on a plane between Cleveland, OH and Dallas further putting countless people at risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola is not spread through the air, water or food, nor is it spread by mosquitos or other insects. It can only be harbored and spread by mammals including humans, monkeys, bats and apes.
Ebola is spread through the direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, including urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen of an infected person. The virus can also stay active and potentially contagious for several hours outside of a host in contaminated objects and surfaces.
As the world continues to watch the spread of Ebola, many people continue to fuel false rumors about the spread of the disease through social media and non-news outlets. It is important to remember that not all the facts you hear are true, especially if they come from sources like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Young people live their lives on the Internet and are quick to jump to unverified conclusions. Over the last couple of weeks, I personally have heard many ignorant jokes and comments pertaining to misconceptions about Ebola.
Even more disturbing is the racial accusations and obnoxious remarks claiming that all African-Americans carry the virus, which we in the educated community know to be untrue and repulsive. The social media app Yik Yak allows anonymous trolls to post offensive remarks while cowardly hiding behind a mask. One anonymous user posted “Everytime ‘Sierra Leone’ by Frank Ocean comes on shuffle I skip it in fear of getting Ebola. Is that wrong.”
A Facebook group has emerged from behind the piles of empty pizza boxes and rat infested apartment and call themselves “Ebola Jokes.” They recently posted the following: “Remember kids, if you set eyes on the new kid on the block from Africa, you’ll get Ebola.”
Remarks such as these are grossly misguided and show an individual’s lack of comprehension when dealing with serious global issues. People joke about the situation for a variety of reasons. They may feel that jokes can help raise awareness or that it is okay to make fun of people and issues that do not directly affect them.
However, Ebola is quickly spreading across the globe and has even shown up in our own backyards. Making fun of other people’s suffering is tacky and proves your ignorance.
I implore you to get informed and stop making generalizations about Ebola and those who have been effected by the deadly disease. These and similar comments are ignorant and not funny. You know who you are and making these tacky and baseless jokes in unnecessary and shameful. Cut it out.