Ebola: Is it Really That Scary?

by lina340 on April 7, 2015 - 12:45pm

In March of 2014, the outbreak of the virus, Ebola that came from West Africa, has caused many to worry about their health in the United States, primarily. Not only did Americans worry about their health, they also feared for it. Symptoms include fever, nausea and vomiting, bleeding and bruising, headaches etc., which can result to death if not treated immediately. By informing the public about the symptoms of this deadly disease, journalists caused an outbreak of panic and fear. With headlines like “Why Ebola is so dangerous” and the countless amounts of statistics about people that have not survived from Ebola, many articles and blogs have articulated and argued that journalists and politicians in media have not portrayed the issue of Ebola in an ethical and truthful manner.

Firstly, the media focuses primarily on how scary it is to contract Ebola, rather than informing the public about real science based facts about it in the first place. The moral dilemma that workers are faced with concerns the well-being of the public versus increasing the ratings of their news reports. If this dilemma is viewed on a technical side, the reporters were, in fact, just doing their jobs. However, as reporters with the duty to inform the public about current event, they failed to mention all of the necessary details. While people were panicking about the few cases in the United States, others on Twitter took the liberty to retweet a diagram about how Ebola is actually spread. The original photo from NBC news cleared most of the misconceptions about the virus by explaining that Ebola is not like the common flu. Unlike a cold, Ebola can only be contract by touching contaminated objects, body fluids of an infected person or of an animal. Ebola cannot be contracted through air, water or food. One can only contract this virus by another human being only if they have shown symptom. In order to keep up with everything social in the media, news reports seem like they are forced to follow trend. By scaring their viewers, it hypes up the issue and keeps them watching. With news reports like those written by The New York Times discussing how many people died from this virus, many people were actually distracted and uninformed about the fact that prior to exposure of Ebola, if one does not experience symptoms within 21 days generally, they have not contracted Ebola. What NCB news did, however, was morally ethical since they provided their viewers with the essential information on Ebola to ensure their safety. 

On the other hand, politicians did not behave ethically either. In the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, an emergency physician that contracted the virus caused yet another outbreak amongst some New York residents. Because the public knew very little about how difficult it is to actually get Ebola, many people were outraged that he took the subway, went out to eat and to go bowling. However, the issue still lies with the public being uninformed. “Dr. Spencer did not experience any symptoms at the time he was out”, he says in The New England Journal of Medicine.  At this time, he also mentions that the outburst of rage and fear brings an advantage to politicians during the election season. As a politician, it is inevitable that one would be in the media constantly.  He also states that politicians use fear as a mechanism in order to “try to appear presidential instead of supporting a sound, science-based public health response” (CBC News).  Unethical behaviours on the part of politicians suggest that they do not take into consideration the well-being of the people.

Because the media has over exaggerated about the issue on Ebola, more and more people are being affected by the negative consequences that result from fear. By portraying this virus unethically, in one case, it has caused students from Nigeria to be refused to community college in Texas since they originate from a country where Ebola can be found. The media, being the root cause of this outrage, fails to allow people to recognize that there are cases of Ebola in America as well. So, denying the entry of the Nigerian students by using that argument is invalid as well as unethical.

It is the media’s fault for leading on the public about Ebola by misrepresenting the truth about it. It is the media’s unethical behaviour that caused people to act in the way that the do right now; afraid, paranoid and selfish.

 

Links:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/un-and-cholera-in-haiti-hong-kong-democracy-and-ebola-panic-1.2907381/ebola-panic-goes-viral-is-media-coverage-of-the-outbreak-causing-undue-fear-and-panic-1.2907382

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ebola-doctor-blasts-media-politicans/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/31/world/africa/ebola-virus-outbreak-qa.html?_r=0

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26835233

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