I have been warning about Ebola and other viruses for years. From the start of the current Ebola outbreak, read epidemic, in West Africa I have posted numerous times on the subject.
This won't be a story about the brave few who are fighting this disease at the risk of their own lives and with few rewards. I have nothing but respect for those doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers right now on the front lines.
This is a story about something else entirely.
Then an American got sick and died and the media woke up. Ebola became the number one news. Could it come here the Western media wondered? Could it sneak its way here on an air flight, even to the USA? The evening news anchors were scared. Right wingers began saying Ebola could slip across that pesky southern borders of ours. The left, still largely unconcerned for whatever reason remained virtually silent.
Racism, capitalism, health, ebola even, they are all connected and don't you think for a minute that they are not.
Of course, we in the USA we are busy with low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, and be sure to ask your doctor about restless leg syndrome, and what about that new diet, what about some new sinus medicine. The pharmaceutical industry, after all, didn't see any money to be made in a disease that killed 50% to 80% of those it infected...because they were Africans. Big Pharmo is about Big Money and there just wan't any Big Money to be made in a bunch of dead Africans in some "out of the way" corner of the planet.
...the prices of alcohol, soap, buckets, disinfectants such as chlorine, face mask latex glove among others have skyrocketed in recent time since it was announced that they play a greater role in combating the spread of Ebola.
Some unscrupulous business houses are also selling detergent soaps and other materials that are capable of combating the spread of the deadly Ebola virus are sold at higher prices sometimes twice the amount they were originally sold for prior to the outbreak of the Ebola virus. (EDITORIAL NOTE: AS A FRIEND JUST COMMENTED TO ME AFTER READING THIS, " I know of no upscale across-the-counter soap/detergent that will stop the spread of Ebola better than others. This is high octane Snake Oil. " He is, of course, correct.)
From supermarket to another, prices of these commodities have been increased on ground that more people are buying them in a bid to stop the spread of Ebola.
It was expected that the operations centre was in full swing on a 24 hour basis. "We need quick response and decision making to speed up the process in redesigning our strategy to fight this deadly disease," President Koroma said, and urged WHO to ensure the EOC is fully operational.
President Koroma also assigned Ambassador Professor Monty Jones to monitor the operations of the EOC at all times to ensure it's up and running on a 24 hour basis. He vowed to be visiting the centre without notice.
A week and a half ago Susan Sered ( a Professor of Sociology at Suffolk University in Boston who has published six books, including "Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity) writing at Salon scolded America for its shameful ignorance about the spread of Ebola. She wrote at the time:
The United States, according to the CDC, has sent a seven-person team to help in Guinea, and provided protective clothing and equipment for healthcare workers in all three countries. In the grand scheme of things, that is a minimal amount of aid – echoed by the minimal coverage the outbreak has garnered in U.S. media. (Far more attention was afforded GOP Congressman Phil Gingrey’s outlandish and factually implausible comments about refugee children crossing the border bringing Ebola into the United States from Central America.)
There is more than one way to interpret America’s disinterest. One is racism — the sense that the people dying of Ebola are so different from “us” that we really can’t identify with them. Another is compassion fatigue. Isn’t there always some horrible disease afflicting Africa and Africans?
Indeed, many of the English-language articles that have been written about the Ebola outbreak focus on “ignorant” and “superstitious” Africans who give more credence to witchcraft than to modern medicine.
This analysis, picked up by several news outlets, simultaneously reveals the kind of xenophobic Western mindset that victims of the Ebola outbreak distrust, and hints at why Western readers do not seem all that interested in learning about or from the outbreak.
Well, until an American died that is. Sered isn't done. She goes on to talk about all those reports about many West Africans not trusting the out of town docs who have come to town, about thinking the healthcare workers are lying, maybe even spreading the disease. She writes:
From my perch as a medical sociologist, the claim that mobs attacking treatment centers are panicking reveals “troubling truths“ regarding the Western track record of medical experiments and geopolitical ambitions in Africa. Distrust of Western medicine may have less to do with superstition than with history: forced sterilizations in Peru; the intentional infection of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis; marketing campaigns urging mothers in countries lacking safe water supplies to replace breastfeeding with infant formula so that women could work in western-owned factories; the sale in Africa of pharmaceuticals that passed their expiration date for sale in the West; the harvesting of organs in India for transplants to wealthy foreigners.
In sub-Saharan Africa, outbreaks of new diseases such as Ebola (first identified in 1976) echo the spread of industrialization, urbanization, unprecedented militarization (funded by western countries), deforestation and the destruction of eco-systems that have forced communities to expand their search for food into territories that traditionally were not used for that purpose. In reports in the English-language press, however, there is little consideration of the political and economic structural forces that gave rise to the emergence and spread of Ebola. Rather, as Jared Jones writes, “African ‘Otherness’ overpowers the possibility of a non-cultural causality in the dominant discourse, and other factors are left unexamined as potentially causal or exacerbating.” Attention to sorcery rather than the inequalities of globalization obscures the fact that the biggest leaps in life expectancy in the U.S. and Europe came about because of massive government-funded public health measures — sewage systems and clean water supplies – not because we gave up our religious beliefs.
The articles I read in the English-language press decry the absence of functioning healthcare infrastructures in the African nations hit by the Ebola virus. But I am not convinced that the United States would do much better. There are a great many things that western medical institutions and personnel do extraordinarily well. We have sophisticated surgical technology and an advanced pharmacopeia of medicines to treat hundreds of diseases. But the bulk of our medical resources go towards curing rather than prevention. What we do dedicate to prevention tends to be limited to proximate factors such as germs and personal behaviors such as smoking that make individuals sick. We also divert resources into campaigns for procedures such as mammograms which detect but do not prevent disease. We pay less attention to poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and, yes, globalization, as root causes of sickness.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the United States has contributed so minimally to managing the Ebola outbreak. Effective public health endeavors need organized and sustainable systems for preventing the spread of disease. And, as I have argued before, the United States does not have a healthcare system. “System” denotes an overarching set of principles, practices, procedures and organizational structures, whereas our U.S. healthcare landscape is a decentralized and incoherent hodgepodge of financing and delivery mechanisms lacking rational methods for setting priorities.
Services and regulations, as well as thresholds for Medicaid eligibility, vary enormously from state to state. Municipal, county and state health departments rarely have mechanisms to keep track of patients who move to another jurisdiction. Hospitals around the country and even within one city or state use incompatible medical records. (Even the federal government’s Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense records are mutually inaccessible.) We have for-profit and not-for-profit hospitals. (And it’s often difficult to tell which is which.) Though many of us believe that emergency rooms serve as a safety net,federal law only requires emergency rooms to assess and stabilize patients (and they are allowed to charge a whole lot to do so), not to cure them. Walk-in clinics are proliferating in Wal-Mart and CVS branches. Hundreds of for-profit and not-for-profit insurance companies compete for “good” (that is, well-paying and relatively healthy) patients and customers. Behavioral and oral healthcare are almost never integrated with the rest of healthcare. And the Affordable Care Act — touting that “consumers” can “choose” the insurance plans that “best fit their needs” — is not designed to turn this chaos into any sort of longterm sustainable system.
We need to learn about public health emergencies around the world not only because they might become our emergencies, but also because those emergencies could be better contained and managed if we were to invest our expertise, our attention and our resources into community, national and international health preservation. For a fraction of the money that Western countries have poured into military campaigns in Africa, it would have been possible to support local governments in building functioning public health infrastructures. But let’s also not forget that despite spending more on healthcare per person than any other country in the world, here in the U.S. we are dead last among developed countries in health and life-expectancy, according to a recent study of 11 nations by the Commonwealth Fund. Ignoring the reality that the health of each of us is inexorably intertwined with the health of others is a collective disaster-in-the-making.
The following little ditty is from and that's the way it was...