Ebola is not an isolated issue, but international
Although Ebola has raged through news snippets since March, the American general public has only started paying attention to the disease and its effects on both African and domestic affairs since the disease travelled across the Atlantic Ocean.
This attention can be seen through Google Trends; a huge spike in interest occurred when Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died on Oct. 8 on United States soil, was diagnosed with Ebola and admitted into an isolation ward in Dallas, Texas.
What does this show about the United States and our attitude in general? While some news outlets have labeled the intermittent attention of the American public xenophobic and racist, I think it is natural that people tend to focus on news that concerns themselves — news that has a direct impact on American lives. From this standpoint, Ebola reaching American soil should rightfully cause a dramatic increase in coverage of the diagnosis and treatment of Americans with the disease.
What many of us fail to realize is that when Ebola was only starting to rage through Western Africa, it did have an impact on our world. Ebola is one of the deadliest viruses ever seen, and the sheer horror and pain of being diagnosed with the disease only adds to the mystique around it. A large-scale pandemic would be disastrous for people’s livelihoods, existing healthcare infrastructure, and the world economy. Considering this effect on the U.S., the media’s portrayal of the disease has been almost catastrophic. We can’t label Ebola a “Third-World” disease, when even so-called “First-World” medicine can’t completely cure it. Have we ever asked ourselves what it would be like to live in Libera or Sierra Leone, where medical facilities are understaffed with limited resources?
It is imperative to note that United States healthcare infrastructure is one of the few crucial advantages we have over West African nations in managing an Ebola outbreak. American medical aid in Africa would have benefitted both the United States and the international community in addition to the nations themselves.
The government response was centered on securing Americans, while very little aid flew the other way. Media portrayal of Ebola has focused on how the weight of the blame swings between natural circumstances and the lack of trained medical professionals.
The solution to the Ebola crisis will require a systematic reshuffling of healthcare in the afflicted nations, and this is where the United Nations needs to go from bystander to active executive. Ebola is no longer an isolated problem in Western Africa; it may very soon dictate the fate of the international community