I have been meaning to write about Ebola for a while and have slowly been collecting stories and bits of information to help me write a considered and well-thought-out argument (which I still hope to get round to writing). But stumbling upon this story of the reaction of a health centre in Milton Keynes where I grew up on my lunch break today brought it all to a head. So before I overthink it, I’m going to post up my immediate thoughts on this ‘international crisis’ and share with you the comment I posted on the article on the MK News website.
But first (just quickly). Ebola. It’s certainly a topic you can’t ignore – it’s EVERYWHERE; there’s even a song about it (I’m not kidding – you can listen to it here). And in typical Western fashion, as soon as one of ‘us’ gets it (god forbid a disease that actually transcends Africa’s continental borders), you can bet your bottom dollar that media sensationalism, mass hysteria and reactive segregation (read: ‘othering’ and the discrimination again those who may have the disease leading to the justification of stricter immigration policies or simply banning flights from EVERY African country) will ensue and Ebola Survival Kits will soon be flying off the shelves.
Here is the original article as can be found on the MK News website (props to them for actually doing some research and stating that Ebola isn’t airborne):
EBOLA: What do you think to this sign outside Milton Keynes Walk-in Centre?
A sign has been put up outside the Walk-in Centre at Milton Keynes Hospital that tells people who have visited West Africa to wait outside and ring the bell for further advice.
The sign reads: ” STOP: Have you visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia? Please ring the bell to your left and await further advice.”
MKWeb have looked at the myths surrounding Ebola and you can’t catch it from sitting next to someone in a waiting room as the virus is not air born, you can only catch it from sharing bodily fluids, but what do you think?
Here is what people said on our Facebook page, share your views below:
Corinna Schell commented: “I can understand that the patient was upset but honestly think the centre reacted appropriate. First of all they asked the right questions and they need to be cautious… We have heard how easy it can be transmitted even nurses in full protective gear …See More I can understand that the patient was upset but honestly think the centre reacted appropriate. First of all they asked the right questions and they need to be cautious… We have heard how easy it can be transmitted even nurses in full protective gear caught it…Not sure why they did not go and waited in the car and talked via phone. Similar to the swine flu the advice is to call first and then be asked to go to the appropriate area that then can set up everything for the patient. I wonder how easy the blood test is and how long the results take. Imagine she would have indeed had Ebola how many patients within a&e were at risk.”
Mike Jones said: “The headline could of easily of read ‘suspected Ebola patient was told to wait in waiting room full of patients including children!! ‘ They did right under the circumstances it they don’t have any isolation areas set. Crazy? No”
Lou Tom Saltyy said: “So they should be!! They should then be isolated, sorry but I don’t want all the little kids catching this!!
Stephanie Runawaywiththespoon commented: “I would stay at home and call first.”
Kat Randall said: “The walk-in-centre done the right thing in my book as there is chicken poxs going around and there could have been loads of kids in there safety for the kids is more important than getting cold I think ?”
Kerrie Hopkins added: “But if that was a child with expected Ebola but they wouldn’t of been made to stand outside for that long it’s just wrong they should of said sorry we can’t help u please go to A&E who can help as they are set up for it. Not leave someone stood there for so long not knowing what’s happening.”
Claire Armstrong added: “There is no hope.”
And this was my own Facebook comment on the article and the Walk-in Centre’s actions, written for the people of Milton Keynes:
I think that their (over) reaction was sensational and ridiculous, and most likely a symptom of the hysteria generated and perpetuated by the national media. Nigeria has handled the outbreak wonderfully and is actually only a few days short of being declared Ebola free (42 days without a case) – even the FT has reported this: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/4769ca32-52c4-11e4-a236-00144feab7de.html#axzz3G9JqRpCl. I fully realise that Ebola is a horrible disease and has already ruined many lies, but our Western tendency to fear the ‘other’, to pick and choose which international crises we care about (i.e anything for which there is the smallest possibility that it could affect us/white people) and to completely ignore the facts (i.e more people will die of influenza in the US than Ebola) has got to stop.
People need to calm down, pause, look at themselves and start thinking about other people. Instead of this mad panic that ‘Ebola’s going to get us’, we should stand in solidarity with those for whom it truly is a problem. Instead of reacting without thinking and immediately segregating ourselves from those who may or may not have the disease (a la the Walk-in Centre), we should show respect and admiration for the way Nigerians have come together to contain the disease and have shown us all how it should be done, we should practice empathy and compassion for those who are suffering with Ebola or truly ARE at risk of contracting it and who live without a provision like the NHS and stop making this all about ‘us’ as we tend to do.
I understand that people are scared, but it’s a fear that we create ourselves and can be reframed. We are all human after all and have the freedom to choose how we react. It’s time to stop reacting and start proacting!
I will write a more considered post on Ebola soon, but felt inspired to write this now, so I have. As usual I would welcome your thoughts, comments, criticisms, support etc. And as usual I will remind you that I am not an expert, will get things wrong and am fully open minded so am ready to change my opinion – so please share yours. If you’d like to write your own post on this issue or something similar, please do get in touch!