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Author Topic: Ebola and media coverage  (Read 2943 times)

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Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Ebola and media coverage
« on: October 05, 2014, 06:45:23 PM »
I've been watching the news for information about the Ebola breakout in West Africa. It's been said numerous times that the news coverage of the outbreak is not giving the best picture. Some say that the number of people reported sick or dead is a bit lower - perhaps due to difficulty in counting or diagnosing.  Some say that disease outbreak itself is only part of the problem while quarantine, loss of farmers and stigma pose part of the overall problem too.

What I find more troubling is how the media is downplaying the threat of Ebola in the US - perhaps to prevent panic or stigma, but at the same time, it seems to be sensationalizing the story when speaking of the outbreak in Africa. Perhaps that's my own fault for watching CNN. We hear about medial workers in freaking space suits catching this disease, yet at the same time, the CDC is insisting that you won't catch Ebola by riding on a plane that an infected passenger has been on.

I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but I smell spin here.

As I understand:

"You can get Ebola though personal contact only. It's not airborne.", however, being sneezed on is considered personal contact, and a sneeze can travel pretty far. What about a sweaty handshake with someone who is symptomatic or lightly symptomatic? Or a handshake with someone shortly after they sneezed into their hand, or a sick food worker?

"Ebola is passed though personal contact only", however, there have been reports about people getting sick from riding in cabs, or touching personal items like bedsheets. I think I read that it can live on an inanimate surface for a matter of hours.

I suppose my concern is that either the health organizations and media are downplaying the threat  in order to curb panic, or perhaps the health agencies are just assuming that people will maintain an unrealistic/ideal level of hygiene.



Offline lilhobbit37

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2014, 09:07:30 PM »
Ok let me just give a bit of information.

I work at the Rhode Island Department of Health. We have one of the largest percentage of Liberian residents (percentage of our population, not most people) in the US. Since day one, our department has been working with hospitals about what to do "WHEN" ebola comes to the US.

One thing you have to take into account on ebola and it's death rate in western Africa, is that there are many many things that are different there.

Sanitation is different. Medical care is different.

But most of all, the Liberian's have a very very different view of medicine and government. Many of them do not seek treatment until it is far too late. They also don't embalm the dead the same way we regulate in the United States. This means that the disease spreads more, faster, and is more difficult to squash out.

It also means that in the United States, while there are ways for it to spread, we have much more in place to deal with it, than in Liberia. We have hospitals ready to quarantine. And yes we have places like Texas that will make mistakes, because let's face it, this isn't an every day thing for many hospitals across the US. But overall, we do have what we need to keep it from spreading, and more importantly, the death rate is and will continue to be much lower in a place where people can get rapid treatment, access to the best medical care, and all the necessary medications and supplies to keep both them and their doctors safe.

So while yes, the media may be downplaying certain aspects of it, trust that the health officials across the country are hard at work to make sure that people here are safe, and that if/when people bring this into the country, we are prepared and able to handle it without it becoming the outbreak it is across the sea.

There is a lot of specifics I can't say, because I don't know for sure exactly, as my department doesn't work directly in that field, but we do get updates about everything going on in a general sense, and my boss goes to meetings daily where she learns what is happening. There isn't reason to panic. And yes, I'd hope that knowing what is going on, people will be a little more careful about hygiene, but for the most part, there really is no reason to panic.

Panicking will only lead to hospitals being overloaded with people who aren't really sick, who think they MUST have it, making it more difficult to determine the real actual cases.

Edit: It was pointed out to me that my statement came off as being an attack on Texas. I want to clarify that I have nothing against Texas, and just meant that they made a mistake there, and it may/probably will happen elsewhere, especially in places that don't have high Liberian populations, because they may not expect the cases. I certainly didn't mean it as an insult to Texas, and hope no one takes it as such.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2014, 11:14:06 PM by lilhobbit37 »

Offline Florence

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2014, 12:39:32 AM »
Ok let me just give a bit of information.

I work at the Rhode Island Department of Health. We have one of the largest percentage of Liberian residents (percentage of our population, not most people) in the US. Since day one, our department has been working with hospitals about what to do "WHEN" ebola comes to the US.

One thing you have to take into account on ebola and it's death rate in western Africa, is that there are many many things that are different there.

Sanitation is different. Medical care is different.

But most of all, the Liberian's have a very very different view of medicine and government. Many of them do not seek treatment until it is far too late. They also don't embalm the dead the same way we regulate in the United States. This means that the disease spreads more, faster, and is more difficult to squash out.

It also means that in the United States, while there are ways for it to spread, we have much more in place to deal with it, than in Liberia. We have hospitals ready to quarantine. And yes we have places like Texas that will make mistakes, because let's face it, this isn't an every day thing for many hospitals across the US. But overall, we do have what we need to keep it from spreading, and more importantly, the death rate is and will continue to be much lower in a place where people can get rapid treatment, access to the best medical care, and all the necessary medications and supplies to keep both them and their doctors safe.

So while yes, the media may be downplaying certain aspects of it, trust that the health officials across the country are hard at work to make sure that people here are safe, and that if/when people bring this into the country, we are prepared and able to handle it without it becoming the outbreak it is across the sea.

There is a lot of specifics I can't say, because I don't know for sure exactly, as my department doesn't work directly in that field, but we do get updates about everything going on in a general sense, and my boss goes to meetings daily where she learns what is happening. There isn't reason to panic. And yes, I'd hope that knowing what is going on, people will be a little more careful about hygiene, but for the most part, there really is no reason to panic.

Panicking will only lead to hospitals being overloaded with people who aren't really sick, who think they MUST have it, making it more difficult to determine the real actual cases.

Edit: It was pointed out to me that my statement came off as being an attack on Texas. I want to clarify that I have nothing against Texas, and just meant that they made a mistake there, and it may/probably will happen elsewhere, especially in places that don't have high Liberian populations, because they may not expect the cases. I certainly didn't mean it as an insult to Texas, and hope no one takes it as such.

Thank you for this post, it was very reasonable in explaining the situation.

To the OP, I actually have a bit of a counterpoint. When I hear people accusing the medical community/government/etc. of downplaying it to avoid a panic, I have to as... what's your alternative?

We can only assume they're doing what they can, as they really don't have any motivation to do any less? I don't think anyone benefits from an Ebola pandemic. So if they're trying to avoid a panic, I'm not sure what the alternative people propose is...? Should we panic? As lilhobbit explained, panic only makes it worse.

Now, what was said on the matter already is pretty much what needs to be said. The factors that help Ebola spread so wildly over in the regions its ravaging are not entirely in play here. It doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned, or shouldn't care, but we shouldn't panic. We're much better equipped to handle it with superior medical care, superior sanitation, and perhaps most importantly, superior education concerning germs and disease. It also doesn't help that some people in these regions apparently believe that Ebola is a US conspiracy. Poverty and general living conditions are a factor as well, as, from my understanding, Ebola's been spreading particularly bad in tightly-packed slums where people are brushing up against each-other all day.

I think its reasonable to expect we may get more cases in the US before this is over, but it won't become a major concern for public safety to the degree it is in Africa. BUT, even if it was a very real threat for becoming a major outbreak here, going into a panic and worrying over it wouldn't help. If you can do something about it, by all means, try to help out, but otherwise, I think the best thing most people can do is just keep on doing what they've been doing.

I mean, hell, we're all going to die eventually, no point freaking out over it if we can't help it.

Tl;dr: I think we're gonna be fine. Mind your basic hygiene and don't worry about it.

Offline TaintedAndDelishTopic starter

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2014, 03:41:09 AM »
Thanks lilhobbit37, your response pretty much answered everything.

Regarding the need to avoid panic, I agree, that's certainly important. I guess my concern was that the threat would be underestimated over here as a result of the media spin. It's been mentioned that we have better facilities and sanitation over here, but we also have a lot more mobility. ie. public and private transportation, massive community areas like restaurants, schools, work places, and so on. Anyway... we'll see what happens.

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2014, 04:36:39 AM »
     As I understand it (drawing largely on the Guardian coverage, though I have read a few other media sources at times)...  The disease is currently mainly spread through body fluids.  There is some concern it is likely to mutate and that would be a different beast if it comes to that.  But for now, it isn't all that easy to catch.  The hypothetical sneeze would have to get "in" somehow through say, the eyes or the nose for example.  That sweat would have to be delivered from hands into eyes or mouth perhaps...  I wonder just how long the time frame is during which it is live after the sneeze, and how large a dose of fluid would have to be delivered precisely how for it to catch. 

     I do think crowded, closed environments like airplanes are potentially problematic.  But at the same time, by now there is at least some monitoring of people departing on flights from affected areas.  But populations sitting on porous borders in Africa (some early outbreak zones) can hardly be tracked, and the density of people in large Nigerian cities would compete with the airplane scenario horribly and on a large scale.  African resources and health system defenses are scant.  So for now it is much more damaging to Africa.   

    The frightening part is that it's now quite lethal -- so if one gets it, recovery is dubious.  Yet the bright side on a mass level is that, as long as it stays this lethal, it has very limited time to multiply and propagate from each host.  This means that a still more serious epidemic is relatively less likely than it would be if the carriers did not die this soon.  Particularly in countries with good response systems in place. 

    The thing about taxis:  Many of the African cases originated with corpses being taken home for funerals across national borders in public taxis.  It's more a cultural problem, but that does not help the response much.  I don't imagine many Western societies making the same sort of mistake.  The disease boomed in Africa because non-sterile needles have been used in many African hospitals.  There was also a terrible shortage of qualified doctors to begin with in some areas, after military conflicts, population displacement and so on.  Vastly different situation than in many Western countries.     

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2014, 12:40:15 PM »
Cracked's Quick Fix article today is about why Ebola's not as scary as people think. Granted, their whole shtick is sensationalism for the sake of comedy, so they're not a site you want to be directly quoting any more than Wikipedia, but they're funny and they back up the factual sources for their exaggerations pretty well.

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/why-americans-need-to-calm-f234025-down-about-ebola/

Offline Mathim

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2014, 02:52:55 PM »
Cracked's Quick Fix article today is about why Ebola's not as scary as people think. Granted, their whole shtick is sensationalism for the sake of comedy, so they're not a site you want to be directly quoting any more than Wikipedia, but they're funny and they back up the factual sources for their exaggerations pretty well.

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/why-americans-need-to-calm-f234025-down-about-ebola/

Yeah, thank heaven we can still give and receive handjobs from ebola carriers as long as we wash up afterwards.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2014, 03:13:05 PM »
It might be spreading.

A second person walked into a clinic exhibiting symptoms of ebola in Texas. Whether he has it or not is still up in the air, but the man claims he had contact with patient zero who passed away this morning.

Offline Mathim

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2014, 03:48:12 PM »
It might be spreading.

A second person walked into a clinic exhibiting symptoms of ebola in Texas. Whether he has it or not is still up in the air, but the man claims he had contact with patient zero who passed away this morning.

I just spoke to a woman who came into the office where I work and she seemed to be the kind of gullible worrywart the fearmongers prey upon. I tried to tell her this is nowhere near as bad as the media pump it up to be and she didn't believe me. Most everyone else I talk to has this whole thing (along with the ISIS crisis...haha, that rhymes) on the farthest back corner of their minds because they realize this sensationalism is just business as usual with no statistically significant ramifications, at least not for them.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2014, 04:09:47 PM »
Yeah, thank heaven we can still give and receive handjobs from ebola carriers as long as we wash up afterwards.

Hey, if you're into that kind of thing, I won't be the one to judge you...

Offline Lilias

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2014, 04:47:37 PM »
With Western medicine on hand (antibiotics, fluids, transfusions), an Ebola patient has good chances of making a full recovery. Africa doesn't have such luxuries... and precious time and resources have been lost because the attitude in the affected areas was for a long time like this.

Offline Scribbles

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2014, 03:26:52 AM »
I just wanted to add a few points on why this is more devastating to a country like Liberia...

African communities tend to be very tight knit in the absence of any proper government, most don't even trust their leaders due to high levels of corruption. If you ever visit an African community, you'll learn that they not only rely on themselves for protection (mob justice) but they generally have a local witch doctor who provides remedies. As you can imagine, being part of such a close community coupled with "juju" as a source of healing isn't exactly the best environment to contain an outbreak. There have actually been reports of Ebola patients leaving hospitals to find their witch doctors...

One of the other concerns I heard from Liberia was that some of the populace didn't actually believe there was an Ebola outbreak, they thought their president was trying to scam the international community into donating. LACC is having a hard enough time trying to convince the population that officials aren't pocketing aid. Corruption is actually one of the main causes that the government is having such a hard time containing the outbreak. They've lost so much money to buying overpriced medical supplies and equipment (officials get kickbacks), increasing the wages of senior officials, appointing unqualified officials, and so on and so forth. By the time Ebola hit the big city, Health was caught with its pants around its ankles.

For good reason, many refuse to visit their local hospitals out of fear that they too will catch the disease, and they're probably right. Public hospitals can be scary things in most African countries, not even government health officials use them, unless they're old and dying and need a new kidney and then they're bumped to the top of the list.

Also, as was already mentioned, the lack of hygiene isn't exactly helping the case. Many communities still lack water, meaning you can have hundreds of people sharing toilets, baths, etc, or simply going without cleaning themselves for days on end...

Offline Drake Valentine

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2014, 07:57:40 AM »
I find the Ebola panic going around in media amusing, more so in how much the U.S is stretching it in some cases. I don't find Ebola itself entertaining, such a tragic thing that is.

Though in all honestly, the Flu kills more people than Ebola ever will in the U.S(yearly), but you don't hear people stretching pandemics about the common cold or other viruses that spread and claim lives. Furthermore, Flu/Viruses are Airborne, so far Ebola is only through contact.

In fact: 2010 U.S -
Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826 Deaths

Source - http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2014, 08:19:53 AM »
Several people here at work were talking about a news report on television this morning stating that the nurse who flew in from Cleveland to Dallas and was hospitalized on Tuesday may have been contagious for longer than was originally thought.  I found the following article that talked about her two flights and the increase in the number of people who may come into contact with the virus.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/16/health/us-ebola/index.html

There is a quite a bit of information in the article.

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2014, 08:32:22 AM »
It's not contagious through air before the illness has gone far (and become obviously visible) in an affected person. When she flew she was infected, but not showing any symptoms. So those who shared the same airplane cabin really wouldn't be at any substantial risk as long as they were not, like, using the same unwashed glass as her, directly shaking her hand or picking up one of her paper hankies etc. From what I've heard, things like reading the same free magazine as an infected person had read, on the next flight, or sitting in the same seat a few hours later, would not be a viable path of contagion either.

Ebola seems to have the unpleasant side that the further down the path towards death a patient gets, the more contagious he/she becomes (bubonic plague, as during the Black Death, has something of that too, I think).
« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 08:39:57 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Retribution

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2014, 08:55:41 AM »
Okay call me paranoid, archaic, whatever, but this all seems kind of crazy to me. So ebola is supposedly hard to catch, but why court danger? Just to be safe why not have things like quarantines and so on? Hell, professionally when working in a lab we were always taught to be over the top with caution so why is ebola being treated differently? I find this simple fact utterly baffling and that is with freely accepting that the media blows things out of proportion for self serving reasons. But heck if this had been say three mass shootings as opposed to three cases of ebola there would be a rush for more gun control. So why have not been what seems like pretty basic steps taken to contain it?

Offline Zakharra

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2014, 10:07:40 AM »
Okay call me paranoid, archaic, whatever, but this all seems kind of crazy to me. So ebola is supposedly hard to catch, but why court danger? Just to be safe why not have things like quarantines and so on? Hell, professionally when working in a lab we were always taught to be over the top with caution so why is ebola being treated differently? I find this simple fact utterly baffling and that is with freely accepting that the media blows things out of proportion for self serving reasons. But heck if this had been say three mass shootings as opposed to three cases of ebola there would be a rush for more gun control. So why have not been what seems like pretty basic steps taken to contain it?

 The Administration and the CDC say that putting up an air quarantine would only help spread the disease to the US because we wouldn't know who was coming in.  /eyeroll   Yes, they have really said that, so no quarantine.

Offline Retribution

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2014, 10:24:58 AM »
I know they said that, and to say I find it idiotic from people I otherwise consider relatively intelligent would be a massive understatement of my disbelief. Ignoring ugly facts just because they are inconvenient does not change that they are facts. Quarantines have a long history as a means of controlling spread of disease, not always effective but it is a step that can be taken. It mystifies me that it has not been taken, I see no overt harm in taking such a basic step despite arguments to the contrary.

I know many of the people who have contracted the disease did so while helping others. That is a notable and noble thing, but it does not mean we should spread the disease around. It does not mean we should fail to take very basic steps for fear of being perceived as insensitive or mean.

Offline Drake Valentine

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2014, 10:48:38 AM »
Meh.

'Merica will only really worry about it when it upgrades from epidemic to pandemic or becomes epidemic in the U.S itself. (Cold truth)

So far.

Reported Cases / Deaths (as of 14 October 2014)
 Total: 8,998 / 4,493
 Liberia: 4,249 / 2,458 (as of 12 October 2014)[2]
Sierra Leone: 3,252 / 1,183 (as of 12 October 2014)[2]
Guinea: 1,472 / 843 (as of 12 October 2014)[2]
Nigeria: 20 / 8 (as of 7 October 2014)[3]
United States: 3 / 1 (as of 15 October 2014)[4][5]
Senegal: 1 / 0 (as of 7 October 2014)[3]
Spain: 1 / 0 (as of 7 October 2014)[3]

Source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa


I still say the common cold / flu kills more people yearly.  Besides, the only one that has the worse odds so far in deaths is Guinea, everyone else has been at half or less ratio of fatality rate.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2014, 10:52:36 AM by Drake Valentine »

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2014, 10:50:13 AM »
Reposting from the What's In The News thread -

A nifty web app/website someone created that tells you how far away the closest Ebola case is from your home.

http://ebolanear.me/


Offline Drake Valentine

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2014, 10:57:26 AM »
Reposting from the What's In The News thread -

A nifty web app/website someone created that tells you how far away the closest Ebola case is from your home.

http://ebolanear.me/

Yay, Ebola is roughly 200 miles from me. ^_^

Offline Retribution

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2014, 11:07:08 AM »
The flu does kill more, but being devil's advocate here, I actually work with another illness that is often in the news. West Nile (I happen to be an expert on mosquitoes) is established in the US, but the flu kills far more.

http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/

I linked CDC for reference, but we throw great heaping piles of money at West Nile.  heck, I am part of the great heaping piles of money thrown at it lol. But why is something like ebola not given the same attention?

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2014, 11:21:17 AM »
Yay, Ebola is roughly 200 miles from me. ^_^

Only 119 miles here! And it was something like 600 miles yesterday! PANIC! ;D

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2014, 04:53:16 PM »
The Administration and the CDC say that putting up an air quarantine would only help spread the disease to the US because we wouldn't know who was coming in.  /eyeroll   Yes, they have really said that, so no quarantine.

It makes sense from a security perspective. An outright ban on travel from the afflicted areas provides an entirely false sense of security. It doesn't prevent anyone from travelling if they really want to, just adds another leg to their trip - and erases them as possible carriers. And since we know a ban is in place, we don't need to worry about (and can't justify to the public) screening people, right?

Offline Drake Valentine

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Re: Ebola and media coverage
« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2014, 07:33:29 PM »
The flu does kill more, but being devil's advocate here, I actually work with another illness that is often in the news. West Nile (I happen to be an expert on mosquitoes) is established in the US, but the flu kills far more.

http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/

I linked CDC for reference, but we throw great heaping piles of money at West Nile.  heck, I am part of the great heaping piles of money thrown at it lol. But why is something like ebola not given the same attention?

*Shrug* My theory is, because it isn't that widespread in the U.S or other countries- presently at least. Of course at this point, it is starting to cause some paranoia in the U.S, given the media coverage from a few existing cases.

Also, Mark Zuckerberg donated like 25 Million dollars a few days ago to health care facilities on fighting Ebola. Of course, 25 million is like chump change to him, but some people are donating, his was a pretty big case of chumps of money.