The Ebola Outbreak: Finding our Selflessness

Many of us know all too well the sound of one of our parent’s voices when we have done something disappointingly bad: you should be ashamed of yourself! We all know the feeling, and it isn’t good. Now, as the 2014 year begins to wind down and come to a close, I am going to have to call us ALL out. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

“Wait, what did we do?”

Well, to start with, we gave in to the fear mongering of the mainstream news networks and our own selfish behavior. More importantly, it is about what we did not do. We failed to care enough about the Ebola victims in Africa. Ebola was not even on our radar until it was in our own country, further emphasizing the self centeredness of the American citizen. While we got excited over trivial matters like celebrity baby bumps, and focused an irrational hatred toward our president over his latest supposed misstep, people were dieing. If it was not for the threat to our own personal well-being and security, we would have continued to ignore the problem.

Since March, when the outbreak first began in Africa, over 3,000 people have died. 3,000 men, women, and children. Some have lost entire families to the Ebola virus.

This woman is mourning the loss of her sister. The scene is tragic, but unfortunately, it is all too common. At one Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia, an average of two people die each day. This is astounding, especially when we consider the ONE death in the U.S. that we have chosen to focus on. However, beyond numbers and statistics, I look to the woman in the photo to remind me that these deaths are not an abstract piece of data, but actual human beings.

Yet, despite how devastating the situation has become in Africa, what we have become more and more concerned with is this idea of “How will it affect us?” As a nation, Ebola is a growing fear. Our news networks are constantly following the spread of the virus within the United States. Rachel Maddow, a popular cable news show host, recently discussed how underprepared we are IF we have an outbreak in this country, further encouraging the fear of our own demise that has been growing within us. Even in hospitals, the warning signs for the virus cannot be missed. Hospitals should be discussing how the virus spreads in order to educate the public, in addition to advertising symptoms. Becoming educated about Ebola can help lessen the fear. However,this is not the case. Between our news networks and our medical professionals, you cannot get away from the encouragement to be afraid of Ebola, and we are giving into it. While caring for our own health and protecting the health of our nation is important, instead of giving into the fear these concerns produce, we should be concerned with the people who have been hit the hardest. We should be looking to Africa to help the people, and to also stop the spread of the virus from its epicenter. Not only would helping the people at the origin be the selfless thing to do, it would also be the most logical. If we are afraid of Ebola’s influence spreading, then we need to stop it at its inception. It has taken far too long to reach this realization.

Nearly six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) learned of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa,…[world leaders realized] that the battle against the virus was being lost. As of early September, with more than 1,800 confirmed Ebola deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, there was still no coordinated global response… But it’s not at all clear that this belated muscular response will be enough to quell the epidemic before it takes tens of thousands of lives. (Achenbach, et al.)

As a nation, we are too concerned with ourselves, and collectively we have allowed this situation to get out of control. Our inactivity with regards to aid speaks volumes about us as a country. Is it not the responsibility of those who are in a position of success to help those who are not? If we take action now, we can set a positive example for national charity that will not be forgotten . Otherwise, when this all comes to an end, we will look back and say, “We could have prevented so much death, had we just acted sooner and with intensity.” Then, our example will be one of failure. The time to act was yesterday, but we can make up for it with an action today. Otherwise, we are just as responsible for the rising death toll as the virus itself.

What can we do? Well, first we should all strive to be a little more selfless. Do not give into the fears that our local news networks, hospitals, and our society are cultivating; instead, remember those who are hurting the most. The vast majority of us are worrying about Ebola from within the comfort of a system filled with the best hospitals, sanitation systems , clean water, and our immediate access to health care. The threat is relatively far away compared to those who are living with the daily reality of this lethal illness and the death toll it leaves in its wake. So, while we are well, write to your congressional representative asking for them to take action. Voice your opinion and help spread the word that this is not about us who have yet to feel the effects of Ebola, but about those who already have. Finally, give to charities that you feel will help stymie the spread of Ebola, like Doctors Without Borders or Samaritan’s Purse. And above all, this is not the time to be selfish. If we looked to help those who have been affected in Africa with the same intensity in which we fear the virus’s penetration of American soil, we would be able to stop Ebola. We could stop its spread, and stop the death toll from rising any higher. Then, another mother could live to raise her child, another husband could live to see his wife, and another family could live to see better days.

Achenbach, Joel, et al. “Out of Control: How the World’s Health Organizations Failed to Stop the Ebola Disaster.” The Washington Post. 4 October 2014. Web. 23 October 2014.

Kleeman, Sophie. “One Powerful Illustration Shows Exactly What’s Wrong With How the West Talks About Ebola.” World.Mic. October, 2014. Web. 18 October 2014.

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