Yes Ebola is a problem, no it is not going to kill us all.
If the recent political coverage of the race for Senate in Kentucky showed the political media’s tendency towards shallow coverage, much of the recent coverage of Ebola has to show the medias annoying tendency to freak out at the drop of the hat.
To review, yes Ebola is now in the US and yes that is not a good thing. But it’s hardly signaling the end of the world, even though some people are treating it that way. And let’s be honest, the media’s coverage of this admittedly important story is a big reason why.
To begin with the media often totally fails to explain the pure basics of how Ebola gets transmitted. This is pretty important stuff so let’s review, Ebola is spread though contact with bodily fluids, typically the uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea (gross I know) that happen during it’s peak. So while it’s contagious and deadly, it’s hardly some super disease that’s going to destroy civilization.
Moreover while the threat of Ebola is real it is dwarfed by all sorts of “boring” health issues that kill a heck of a lot more people. For example around 30,000 people die in the US from the flu every year every year, but it’s not getting the round the clock media coverage. How on earth does that make sense, other than if the media is much more interested in sensationalism than the important issues they are supposed to cover. And that’s just one example. If you pick a health issue, heart disease African-American women for example, and you are almost guaranteed to find something that is killing more Americans than Ebola right now.
What would better coverage look like? Well for one it would inform rather than terrify readers, if only by putting this problem into context with other health risks like say dying from cold, which kills over 600 Americans per year!
Coverage of Ebola make sense of course. After all there really is a major epidemic in Africa right now, and since there used to be no Ebola in the US and now there is some, it really does qualify as being “news.” But even so that’s no excuse for the type of shoddy coverage we’ve seen as of late, there really are more important things to worry about from a health standpoint.
Photo by Kerry Lannert/Flickr