The Voice: We should respond better


Sasha Larson

Let’s add this to the quintessential joke book. Next to race jokes and dead baby jokes, 2014 gives us a new chapter: “Ebola jokes.”

Before our biology teachers covered viruses, much of our knowledge of Ebola hemorrhagic fever came from snippets of the six o’clock news and crows of “Ebola!” whenever someone coughed.

People have a right to be scared of this infectious disease, especially when Emory University Hospital housed patients just three miles away from our campus. Since initial symptoms can be mistaken for the stomach flu, the public is justifiably on edge.

All this fear makes it difficult to respond compassionately to those battling the disease and those struggling to stay alive.

Doctors don’t have an effective, non-experimental treatment yet. Those who come in direct contact with Ebola patients must be quarantined at least 21 days to prevent spreading the disease in case they show symptoms.

The Ebola epidemic has quickly become about ourselves. Many Americans fear getting sick, which is highly unlikely since infection requires fluid contact with someone already infected.

We’re not focusing on the victims of this deadly virus, the real people – not statistics – who are trying to survive in inadequate facilities. Nurses must care for them daily, and doctors are scrambling to treat them without adequate supplies. Talk of Ebola is instead laced with fear for the future, not sympathy for those diagnosed.

If the virus never left the confines of Africa, would we even care? The nation only took notice when Americans contracted Ebola.

We were more concerned about the contagion than about the individuals battling for their lives Again, our motivation seems selfish. We don’t want to get sick.

The human aspect of the Ebola crisis was lost in the media mix of accusation, criticism, and Hazmat suits.

While isolating possible Ebola carriers prevents the spread, we must also consider what it’s like for the families forced into quarantine, surrounded by armed guards.

While it’s easy to point fingers at breaches in CDC protocol, a nurse who was trying to save another’s life almost lost her own.

While 86 percent of American patients have survived, 70 percent of African patients have died, according to the World Health Organization.

We’re spreading illogical fear in this country, and we’re overlooking our moral obligation to the thousands affected in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

West African countries don’t have enough room in their hospitals for all the patients who need care. Those in critical condition are given beds first. No prevention or early treatment means no stopping the virus in its tracks.

As the Ebola death toll in West Africa creeps toward 5,000, Americans instead fixate on the one death in the U.S.

“People [in West Africa are] dying while the rest of us in the U.S. are carrying on,” epidemiologist Anne Purfield told NBC News.

America has a reputation for leading in times of international crisis. Whether it’s war, famine, or epidemics, American ingenuity and generosity have benefitted millions. It’s time for our country to play its rightful role in this outbreak.

As an I.B. World School, Decatur’s students ought to maintain a global perspective and consider the ethical dimensions of this international emergency.

In this climate of fear, we need clear thinkers who recognize the reality of the situation and offer compassionate ways of addressing its many needs.