Staff Editorial: Ebola outbreak spreads more misinformation than infection

Lately, the media has been in an uproar over the spread of the Ebola virus. With as many as 2,705 confirmed deaths in Liberia as of Oct. 25, panic is high, despite assurances from the White House of the incredibly low likelihood of American infection. Public opinion seems to be confident that anyone from the Global South could be infectious. If you try to Google Ebola currently, the first thing you’ll see, above the other results, is a release of information from the CDC about the disease saying, “The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people is very low.”

So low, in fact, that the as of Oct. 23, only nine people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Ebola, and only one has died; the other six are reportedly recovered, while the last two are in treatment. And yet, despite these low numbers, our entire country is frantic over the idea of infection. President Obama has even been pushed to elect an official, Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, to be his “Ebola czar,” a figurehead position to show that the White House is involved. According to statistics posted by The Telegraph, the U.S. has pledged, and actually paid, a third of funding for fighting against Ebola among the other 11 donators tracked by the U.N. There is still more that can be done, however while the U.N. is organizing clinics and quarantine zones in Africa, countries have not delivered enough doctors to effectively staff them.

Ebola is infectious, but not highly contagious because it isn’t passed through the air. To transmit the disease, one has to be exposed to contaminated body fluids or objects that have been thusly contaminated. Right-wing politicians have begun to suggest we close our borders to protect us from the outbreak or, rather, our borders. Apparently, it is the U.S.-Mexico border that poses the threat, despite Mexico having no outbreaks so far. Closing off the Canadian border has not been discussed.

This crisis has become less about the disease and one of racial prejudice. Suggesting we close the Mexico border is not about protecting the U.S. from infection but a political attempt to take advantage of the current panic. Closing the U.S.-Mexico border would not be about protecting us from disease. That could as easily come from the north as it could the south. Instead, it would be “protecting” our country from people of color. Considering the infections in the U.S., Ebola is not such a danger to us that such extreme measures need to be taken, but it is quickly becoming a scare tactic to be used against us. We, as a news organization, want to acknowledge these discrepancies. In the spirit of Halloween, there is something out there that should make us shiver, but it isn’t this disease: it’s how we treat it.

Reflecting Guilford College’s core Quaker values, the topics and content of Staff Editorials are chosen through consensus of all 14 editors and one faculty adviser of The Guilfordian’s Editorial Board.