Just about a year ago I decided to cross the Atlantic to relocate in Nairobi, Kenya, not only to broaden my curriculum vitae but to expand my travel IQ.
The last year has been sort of a personal social, anthropological experiment, which has been equally astonishing and shocking.
I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya two weeks before the West Gate attack. I experienced the sobering silence and witnessed the debilitating fear. The energy of fear from that day and the days to follow was shared locally as well as internationally. I distinctly remember being whisked away by a friend to her parents’ palatial home in a heavily, secured suburb of Nairobi.
As I walked in the great room, I remember the anxiousness, the silence and their eagle-eyed concentration while scanning channels for information. I also remember not being fearful or anxious myself about the situation. However, what I do remember is the frustration and the astonishment I felt towards the political powers. A number of years in politics afforded me some insight on coordinated responsiveness. Frustratingly, what I experienced that day and for weeks to come was just short of a sad comedy. The government seemed, by all accounts to be unprepared, non-cohesive in their dissemination of information and communicatively uncoordinated during several, if not all of their press conferences.
Just over a year after West Gate, a new ‘threat’ has dominated the evening news: Ebola. The big, bad, African born virus that kills indiscriminately 95% of the time, or at least that is the way I’ve heard it characterized in the international news.
Sadly, the truth is Ebola originated in Africa-and does, in fact, kill indiscriminately. Scientist named the virus ‘Ebola’ as it was first discovered during the 70’s in Central African patients who lived along the Ebola river- thus the ‘Ebola’ virus.
However, the Ebola virus of 2014 is much more devastating than its predecessor, decisively more conniving and assuredly much more deadly.
Family and friends have emailed and called with reasonable concern about my stay in Nairobi and how the virus might attack me. And why would they not be concerned? Saturated news courage of the virus would make the most Western, weary, free trade, protagonist shake with concern.
The domination of the Ebola virus has dominated the news circuit, so much so that international communities are demanding borders be shut to West Africans. Market shares of anti-bacterial gel have risen about 20%, remarkably, so have hazmats suites and other protective gear.
On this side of the Atlantic, admittedly, I do have concerns about Kenya’s preparedness and transparency in dealing with the virus, should it jump the boarder; especially given the information black hole experienced during West Gate.
Conversely, however, the information super highway of the states, coining it an “African” epidemic that could eradicate Americans, is equally disconcerting not too mention, absolutely ridiculous!
The virus hot spots are Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, a region noted as the deep-end-hot-spot for the virus accounting for the majority of cases and deaths. While the virus is devastating and concern is palatable, coining it an epidemic in West Africa and a crisis in the United States is simply not qualifiable!
Here are some empirical truths according to the World Health Organization.
|Ebola cases and deaths by country and by date – 1 August to most recent WHO update|
|Date||Total||Guinea||Liberia||Sierra Leone||Nigeria||Senegal||United States||Spain|
|Cases||Death|| % Daily
|14 Oct 2014||≈9,216||≈ 4,555||≈+1.2%||1,519||862||≈4,262||≈2,484||3,410||1,200||20||8||1||0||3||1||1||0|
The latest WHO report generated accounts for 4,555 deaths, in the three deep-end-hot-spot areas. According to the 2013 Population of the World census, West Africa’s population numbered 340,000,000 million. So 4,555 deaths, notably sad; but in a populations of 340 million, sorry to say, hardly qualifies as an epidemic.
Moreover, while the death of one person and the infection of two health care workers should cause some concern, the panic and reporting on the virus is over-cooked. Let’s be real! There are 320 million people in the US and only three people infected, of which one died.
Seriously! That’s a crisis?
The truth of the matter is, many of the people who have contracted the virus live in parts of West Africa the majority of the world will never see. Likewise, many of the people who live in the impacted areas of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia simply don’t have the resources to travel to the United States or any other continent for that matter.
There is a truthful concern that the Ebola virus should be monitored and isolated. However, the possibility of Ebola impacting America the way it has devastated parts of West Africa is overdone by the US media.
There are a couple of considerations which the majority of Americans will NOT have to EVER consider. For instance, if you are a health care worker working in West Africa directly working with Ebola infected patients, you should definitely be worried. Or a US health care system worker who works with a transit West African community-you should too be worried. Equally, if you have or must travel to the impacted regions of West Africa for business-you should assuredly be worried.
However, if you don’t have to consider any of these options as part of your every day life or near future-and you are worried about getting the virus-you’re being a bit outrageous!!!
In other words the likelihood of cross-continental infection is highly unlikely-at least-not to the extent the US media has propagandized it.
I couldn’t dare tackle this subject without indicting the international media and in part, some of my personal friends on the racial and bigoted under tones that have been infiltrated the conversation on Ebola, West Africans, and Africa as a whole. I had a very good friend suggest that the porous border of West Africa be closed and that West Africans be isolated, left to their own means and die as a measure to contain the virus. And another suggest that Africans or at least West Africans be prohibited from entering the US. I’ve held my breath while watching FOX news commentator use phrases like “those people” and ‘“that continent” will kill “us” all ‘and yet another commentator say “Those are Obama’s people, with that virus”.
I’m quite embarrassed actually at the malfeasance of international reporting and disappointed that so many of my, smart, intelligent friends have ‘drunk the Kool-Aid.’
The fact is you properly will never come in contact with Ebola and the Ebola virus will probably never come in contact with you.
So please do yourself a huge favor and turn off CNN, MSNBC and especially FOX news. In fact, detune from all news stations, pick up a book or better yet, book a ticket somewhere exotic, go out and enjoy your life because honestly, Ebola should be the least of your worries.
Nakia J. White of Newark is a PolitickerNJ columnist