Ebola panic overshadows far more deadly diseases

 

Hazmat gear for Ebola response at the Level 4 BioSafety Lab at the Texas BioMed Research Institute. Photo by David Martin Davies via Flickr, Creative Commons

Hazmat gear for Ebola response at the Level 4 BioSafety Lab at the Texas BioMed Research Institute. Photo by David Martin Davies via Flickr, Creative Commons

The Ebola panic overshadows far more deadly diseases, points out International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. In recent weeks Ebola has tweaked our primal fears of the first Horseman of the Apocalypse, Pestilence. Politicians, world health officials and the media are near hysteria. It all reminds Manthorpe of his earlier run-in with the Black Death. An excerpt of his new column, Ebola’s first casualty: clear thinking (paywall*):

The email message that arrived in my office in Hong Kong throbbed with the near hysteria of the editor who wrote it.

“Jonathan,” it said, “there’s an outbreak of the Black Death in India. Please get there ASAP and file.”

I took another swig of morning coffee and composed a calming reply. “I’ve heard about the outbreak in Gujarat state,” I said. “It’s called Bubonic Plague and it’s endemic in India. Happens all the time, but I’ll happily go. It will be a good opportunity to do other stories.”

It was September, 1994, and this outbreak of the plague had touched some primal, tribal human memory. Flowery, overblown language is the lifeblood of Indian newspapers, and by the time these enhanced reports of the return of the Black Death had reached the London tabloids one could be forgiven for thinking the End of the World was at hand … log in to read Ebola’s first casualty: clear thinking. (Day pass or subscription required*).

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