Afripop Guest opinion: The African Abroad on Ebola, Lala Anthony and Social Media Ignorance

By Yolanda Sangweni (@YoliZama)

In America, the focus has been more about what would happen if Americans contract Ebola, rather than, wait, 900 people have died and some experts are calling the outbreak “apocalyptic” in West Africa. Never mind that no Americans have died of Ebola.

 

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This column by AfriPop’s editor was originally published on their website in this post.

So we’re in 2014—Everyone has Google. Everyone has a TV to watch the local (or international news). And yet, here we are, with the Ebola virus sending Americans into an apocalyptic frenzy because, according to “the Innanet,” Africans, or anyone traveling from Africa, is bringing Ebola into the “first world.”

Just read Guardian Nigerian writer Lola Okolosie, who is pregnant, recount how her British midwives refused to see her upon her return to London from a trip back home. “My midwives refused to see me,” writes Okolosie. “They took this precaution as a result of two factors – my poorly toddler, who had a slight temperature, and heavy news coverage of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.”

In America, the focus has been more about what would happen if Americans contract Ebola, rather than, wait, 900 people have died and some experts are calling the outbreak “apocalyptic” in West Africa. Never mind that no Americans have died of Ebola.

Just two days ago as I scrolled down a photo of American actress Lala Anthony’s Instagram feed, I thought, aww, look at Lala in the motherland with her family enjoying a safari near Cape Town, the Lion Park near Johannesburg. Cayute!

But one particular photo of Anthony petting a lion awakened the most “ignant” comments I’ve seen about Ebola so far.

“Hope you don’t get sick with all the viruses in Africa,” wrote commenter.

“Don’t bring back Ebola… @lala be extra careful…” wrote another.

“Y’all bout to bring Ebola to the US. Stay there don’t come back please.”

And it went on, and on.

Because, according to some Americans, the Ebola virus is in ALL of Africa – not West Africa, as CNN, BBC, and more, have so tediously reported. Judging from the comments on Twitter and news articles, it’s safe to assume that most people have not taken the time—nor are they willing—to research the facts about Ebola.

And so they mask their ignorance and xenophobia in a wrapper of concern about a worldwide epidemic. When what they really want to say is they still think of Africa as a place of disease and dismay, they pretend to be concerned about a virus that, so far, has affected not one person in America.

The real epidemic is the ignorance we allow to permeate our social media feeds, our newscasts, our newspapers, our world. But maybe this commenter said it best, “People who call themselves ‘first world’ really post the dumbest shit.”

Some facts about Ebola:

  • The outbreak is currently concentrated in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
  • As of August 8, 2014, “a cumulative total of 1779 suspect and confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and 961 deaths, as of August 6, 2014. Of the 1779 clinical cases, 1134 cases have been laboratory confirmed for Ebola virus infection.”
  • Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
  • It is not a food-borne or water-borne disease.
  • There are no cases of Americans contracting the virus.
  • If a person doesn’t show symptoms, they are not contagious.
  • Ebola presents itself like a bad case of the flu. Symptoms usually include headaches, fever and muscle pain.

H/T to Tim Falletti for this hilarious Ebola Apocalypse piece.

Yolanda Sangweni is senior editor/producer at Essence.com and editor of AfriPOP! The African Abroad is a column featuring the random musings of AfriPOP!

 

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