Imbalanced media reports: Ebola vs ChikV

It might be irresponsible to describe the incessant media coverage about the Ebola virus in Shakespearean terms — much ado about nothing.

However, every day Americans die from cancer, influenza, heat-stroke, freezing temperatures, pneumonia and complications from it, heart attack, stroke and a myriad of diseases. If a week goes by and only a single American die from any one of those maladies, the news media would not report with such urgency as they seem to have invested in covering Ebola, the foreign terror that has not killed a single American.

Relentless reports have left many Americans terrified and hankering for more and more news about the disease that took the life of a Liberian national who arrived in Texas and unfortunately became the face of the dreaded disease.

And while they should not throw caution to the wind now that Thomas Eric Duncan succumbed here on U.S. soil, one must wonder how such a terrifying and incurable disease accounted for the death of 9,000 individuals in Africa and less than a month ago, the word was absent from the American lexicon.

Perhaps, Ghana’s Kofi Anan has the answer.

The former Secretary General for the United Nations said the world ignored Ebola until it spread from Africa. Although the disease had been wreaking havoc throughout the continent for decades, only when it affected Americans and Europeans did the threat of a pandemic become newsworthy.

“If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently. In fact when you look at the evolution of the crisis, the international community really woke up when the disease got to America and Europe,” Anan said.

Annan had some choice words for the world’s governing bodies when it came to the way the Ebola virus has been worrying Americans recently. Anan said that the international community could have nipped the issue in the bud much sooner but because of their reluctance to act, ended up ruining the opportunity to contain the virus.

“As a result of their inaction, the Ebola virus has now gone worldwide, and threatens the health of the entire world.”

“I am bitterly disappointed by the response… I am disappointed in the international community for not moving faster,” Annan told BBC Newsnight.

Annan contends that diseases only matter to the world once they hit the U.S. and Europe (aka white people). With the disease infecting a nurse in Spain and two nurses here in America and the fact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to be apologizing for their role in handling Duncan’s case, Americans are now being deluged with updates on the dangerous Ebola disease.

“I point the finger of blame at the governments with capacity… I think there’s enough blame to go around,” Annan said.

“The African countries in the region could have done a bit more. They could have asked for help much faster and the international community could have organized in a much better way to offer assistance.”

“We didn’t need to take months to do what we are doing today.”

Annan defended the World Health Organization, which has been criticized for not responding quickly enough to the worst ever epidemic of the disease, which began in Guinea before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Nobel peace prize laureate said that the WHO, which predicts that the infection rate could reach 10,000 a week by December, was aware of the risk of the disease but relied on governments to give them the resources to act.

Already the governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, issued travel bans against individuals traveling directly or indirectly from some countries in West Africa.

In Jamaica – the Ministry of National Security said the ban extends to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The ban also extends to Commonwealth citizens who have travelled to or transited through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within 28 days of their arrival to Jamaica.

It was also announced that Jamaican citizens and residents, who have travelled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within 28 days of their arrival will be quarantined in the interest of public health and national security upon their arrival in Jamaica.

Already, reggae artists booked for concerts on the continent have postponed appearances.

The Security Ministry noted that the government of Jamaica reserves the right to screen all Jamaican nationals.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Health Minister Dr. Fuad Khan announced during a post cabinet news conference that anyone coming from Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Nigeria will be denied entry.

In addition, people who visited the named African countries within the past six weeks will also be refused entry.

Citizens who visited these countries will be quarantined for 21 days upon arrival in T&T.

Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname are the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to issue a ban on travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

Director of Communications Maurice Merchant said that the Gaston Browne-led cabinet agreed to impose travel restrictions on passengers traveling from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Passengers who are known to have visited those countries within the last three weeks will not be allowed entry to the country

“It concerns people who have spent 21 days or more in Ebola areas and who want to travel to Suriname. They will not be allowed in,” Martelise Eersel, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said.

She said it does not matter whether the people hail from West Africa or had visited a country there, they will not be allowed onto any aircraft heading towards Suriname.

“If you’re in the European Union (EU), that is where you will stay,” she said.

St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana have effected similar restrictions as the disease — for which there is no cure — spreads to other parts of the world.

The government of Belize acted swiftly to deny an American couple entry into the country. Reportedly, the couple was prevented from departing from the cruise ship they were traveling because the woman traveling was suspected of carrying the Ebola virus.

The couple was also barred from using the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) in Belize to be flown back to the U.S.

The state department released a statement expressing disappointment with the decision.

Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said the situation could have been handled differently.

Harf conceded that the Ebola virus poses a serious threat, but said “decisions like these need to be made based on information and science and not fear.”

However, Dean Barrow, prime minister of Belize insisted that his administration was not taking any chances that could put the lives of Belizeans at risk.

Symptoms of the virus become evident two to 21 days after infection. They include, high fever, headache, joint and muscle and stomach pain. An estimated 4,500 people have died from the disease and the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that as many as 20,000 cases could be affected by November if efforts to curtail the disease are not improved.

Meanwhile, the Chikungunya virus claimed another youth in Jamaica. The Ministry of Education announced that a 10-year-old student in Kingston recently succumbed from the dreaded disease.

According to the spokesperson, the youth missed many days of school and had only reported for classes on one day, Sept. 1.

Reportedly during her absence her condition showed no improvement. Eventually, she was admitted to a hospital. After being admitted allegedly, further complications developed resulting in a swollen spleen and liver. She died Friday.

Last week, Syringa Marshall Burnett, a former senate president died from complications of the disease.

The total number of deaths from Chikungunya virus on the island now stands at six.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency said a total of 644,686 suspected and 9,640 confirmed Chikungunya cases have been reported in the region since Sept. 8. According to the PAHO data, 55 deaths have been linked to the Chikungunya virus outbreak in Martinique where the disease was first detected in the Caribbean. Forty-nine deaths were reported in Guadeloupe, six in the Dominican Republic and three in St. Maarten.

Puerto Rico is reportedly now investigating whether two recent deaths there were related to the virus.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Symptoms include high fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, rash, vomiting and diarrhea. There is no specific treatment, but medications can be used to reduce the symptoms.

Chikungunya virus was initially identified in many countries in Africa and Asia and is responsible for numerous epidemics in those areas.

But like mad cow, flesh-eating and Tsars diseases, reports on these “epidemics” seem newsworthy when an American gets infected.

Only then do U.S. media tend to over-saturate commentary and reportage before moving to the next headline.

With not a single American dead from Ebola, the hype continues without concern about the mosquito-transported virus which has already claimed the lives of 113 CARICOM nationals and is wreaking havoc just south of the border. As a matter of fact, few Americans are even aware that a disease named Chikungunya exists.