21 Oct, 2014 @ 16:01
3 mins read

Bowled over by Ebola? Or an urban-myth-style scare story that has nearly run its course?

By Jo Chipchase

DURING early October, the Spanish media scared (or bored) us rigid with its non-stop coverage of the small Ebola outbreak in Madrid.

As everyone must know by now, this centred on the case of health worker, Teresa Romero. She had nursed a sick priest who had been repatriated from Liberia, only to die shortly after arrival. She came down with the virus herself and was admitted to hospital – but only after she had wandered around in public while contagious.

This scenario prompted widespread panic about safety standards at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, resulting in endless TV footage of the hospital edifice and people clad in scary-looking “hazmat” suits. Fortunately, Teresa later responded to experimental treatment and recovered – without causing an epidemic – other than one of hysteria.

Meanwhile, thousands of social media users fretted about Teresa’s dog, Excalibur. To eliminate any chance that Ebola might be transmitted by a canine host, he was ‘euthanized’ despite a world-wide petition to ‘save the innocent dog’. The horror about one hound was far greater than the level of interest shown in some 4,000-plus West Africans who have, to date, died of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, causing additional problems of food shortages, dysfunctional economic systems and orphaned children.

With the media focusing attention away from where it is actually needed – in West Africa – fear and stupidity increased much faster than cases of the real virus. Some of the most dangerous viral matter was found on social media. One hoax press report – arising from a pleased-looking man in Ghana – said that the Red Cross is injecting Ebola into Africans. Yes, all those medical personnel and aid workers would rather see their patients annihilated! And now, publicly bashing the World Health Organisation, health ministers and ‘Big Pharma’ is in vogue, as is a shiny hazmat suit for Halloween, darling.

On Andalucia’s social media forums – especially Facebook – the discussion raged about all things viral. The comments below are loosely taken from a real discussion:

“If unchecked in West Africa, Ebola could be a big threat to the developed world through open flight routes. With the infection rate predicted to reach 10,000 new cases a week by December, it could affect major transportation hubs and crowded areas, and cause global chaos.”

“Don’t be so silly – only 4,000 people have died of it. More people die of diarrhoea.”

“There are cures for diarrhoea. This is a KILLER disease.”

“Just boost your immune system. Take some vitamin C.”

“Take a walk in the sunshine to boost your immunity.”

“Err, isn’t there plenty of sun in West Africa?”

“Treat it with tea tree oil. That’s a great antiseptic.”

“You really want to put tea tree oil on someone with EBOLA?”

“It can be beaten by smoking weed because of the healing properties of cannabinoids.”

“What happens if you pass the joint mouth-to-mouth and infect everyone?”

“Don’t share it.”

“I am a recluse and I am going to go on the mountain with my tins of food.”

“Oh, just enjoy yourself. There are many other causes of mortality, such as a fish bone death or a flying golf ball.”

“It is all a lie created by Big Pharma so they can scare everyone and then WHO can inject them all.”

“With their toxic vaccinations.”

“It say on conspiracy websites they are going to inject us with microchips.”

“But, err, a vaccination isn’t going to be ready for this Ebola outbreak – maybe not until 2016.”

“A man in Ghana says on the Spirit Science Metaphysics website that Ebola is a big lie, and the Red Cross injected people with it anyway, so don’t worry about it.”

“They lied about polio in the past too. I think they made up the numbers up all along.”

“EVERYTHING is one big lie.”

“Yep, that’s what people said in Liberia before they all started dying.”

“It is the fault of witch doctors.”

“It is down to fruit bats. Can’t we just kill them all?”

“Nigeria has just been declared Ebola-free.”

“Ah, that nurse in Madrid has just been declared Ebola-free as well so can we call it a day now…?”

Personally, I doubt that we have seen the end of the matter, even though the world media is currently taking a unanimously positive angle. Only a short while ago, US citizens became hysterical about a lady vomiting on a bus near the Pentagon (she did not have Ebola) and a cruise ship from Texas was disallowed to dock in the Caribbean because it contained a passenger who had handled an Ebola sample, turning the vessel into a (sic) ‘floating petri dish’

Flu and cold season approaches. Think of the potential for people on crowded passenger vehicles to exhibit feverish symptoms or vomiting, causing mass public fear. But a worse threat is surely the thousands of people now infected with stupidity. They are about to receive the new ‘Ostrich Protocol’ – currently in clinical trial – which involves sticking the head firmly into the sand after first embalming it with a mixture of cannabinoids and tea tree oil.

Imogen Calderwood

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