In 1976, a fatal virus emerged in central Africa. For the first 37 years since its discovery, the virus remained in Sub-Saharan Africa, creating outbreaks in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and other surrounding countries.
But the sad truth about this is that the virus did not receive much international attention until this year, after more than 1,300 victims died unnoticed. This virus is known as Ebola.
On Aug. 8, 2014, the World Health Organization finally declared Ebola a threat to international public health, yet America was confident they would not be affected. In early October, 44-year-old nurse Teresa Romero contracted Ebola in Spain after caring for an infected priest, yet America kept faith in its security. On Oct. 8, Ebola-infected Eric Duncan died in Texas, confirming the first death from Ebola in the United States. As a result, America couldn’t talk about anything except the rising pandemic. Two weeks later, three more Americans contracted the disease. America, once calm and confident, is now in a frenzy.
I feel this paranoia is just too much. Yes, I understand how dangerous the virus is, and of course I would be deathly afraid if Ebola came to California, but I can’t help but wonder why we have only just started to care. Why did most Americans ignore this virus that apparently only this year became so life-threatening to them, when in reality it has been claiming life after life in Africa for 40 years?
The answer is simple: Americans are selfish. Take the film industry for example. I find it sickening that we’re willing to pay $15 to see a movie about pandemics, apocalypses, and mass destruction for entertainment. Many of us wouldn’t even think of giving the same amount to help others for whom these situations are reality. This stems from how our media turns life-threatening situations into exciting spectacles, rather than things we should actually fear. Consequently, we are oblivious to the fact that what we see in movies can be more than fiction.
For instance, on Sept. 9, 2011, medical thriller “Contagion” was released in theaters. Movie review website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 84%. Meanwhile, the risk of death for those infected with Ebola in some countries shot up to 90%. Critics praised “Contagion” for its scientific accuracy and for its efficiency in instilling fear in audiences. At the same time, people in Sub-Saharan Africa did not need a brilliantly filmed movie to make their fear real.
Our media’s portrayal of a pandemic made us oblivious to the real dangers of disease and virus, and so we keep trying to hide the truth—that we are just as vulnerable as other countries are. Thus, I believe we need to open our eyes further to the harshness of death and disease. No longer should we sit and watch fearfully, yet comfortably in our velvet cushioned seats, popcorn in hand. No longer should we push out everyone who we feel will endanger the supposed safety of both our medical and social anti-Ebola bubble. Instead, if we really want to fix things, we need to learn to embrace the rest of the world, to go further from just simply recognizing the disease by actually joining together to help suppress the epidemic.