I feel like by this point I would be prepared for anything that appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. So, oh, surprise when I saw someone post this: “Can I just quarantine myself from the world so I don’t get Ebola. I already caught a stupid cold.. i don’t want Ebola next. Why did people have to go to Africa on their own accord and bring it over here…”
I understand her concern over Ebola. Yes, this latest outbreak has come from Africa. Yes, it has arrived here in the U.S. But, funny thing is, I didn’t see this kind of status updates when Ebola started spreading in Africa months ago. I didn’t see the status when 121 people had died in Africa three days before.
How sad is it that over 3,865 people have died in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and we have heard nothing? How sad is it that the experimental treatment was only fast-tracked when American citizens caught Ebola? Granted, they were helping in Africa as aid workers, but still. Heck, how is it that a Spanish nurse raises more awareness in El País, but we heard nothing months ago?
For I don’t think anyone has heard the reality from the other side. Just from the brilliant account from 13-year old Bintu Sannoh in Sierra Leone, I have learned that many children are being left orphans. I have learned how many communities are forcefully being quarantined by their police forces. I have learned that, with so many schools closed, once they open there will be high dropout rates due to more poverty and teenage pregnancy.
I have yet to see a status update about that.
But God forbid that any of us catch Ebola – even though it spreads only through bodily fluids, which is not that big of a concern in the United States. Even though we have soap and hand sanitizer and can take showers whenever we please. Even though we mindlessly wash our hands while it could mean life or death for those that are not as well off as us.
I get it. What we don’t understand causes us to be afraid. Six years ago, when I travelled to D.C. to find our future house, I had a simple cold, and yet had to be kept holed up at our friend’s house. Why? Because H1N1 was a thing, and if anyone saw me as much as coughing, I was sure (albeit exaggerating a bit) a SWAT team would tackle me and take me to some weird facility.
But was I also exaggerating for no reason? Not exactly. Seven years ago, during a vacation to New York, I arrived from Venezuela with mumps. Not too big a deal for those of us who live in third-world countries, right? But here, I was taken to a hospital and kept as a weird specimen. Day after day medical students walked into my room and looked at the oddity and the freak in front of them. Of course! To see an illness eradicated in the U.S., what an amazing display to examine!
As the Ebola craze pops up here again, I can’t help but remember what my doctor in New York told me: “I’m discharging you now, or else they’ll keep studying and testing you.” So, personally, I understand and am disgusted by this overt fear about Ebola. Is it a real issue? Yes it is. Does it have the capacity to kill? Certainly. But the United States has a great health system and infrastructure, and so Ebola won’t be as concerning as it seems.
We should use our time writing offensive status updates on giving African nations the knowledge, information, and infrastructure to protect themselves in the long term. They need it more than us.