There are two articles about Ebola in the Belfast Telegraph this morning. The first is headed ‘Ebola has the upper hand, says US expert’ and the other is headed ‘Ebola Briton gets experimental drug’.
The first article quotes Dr Tom Frieden, director of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: ‘Lots of hard work is happening. Lots of good things are happening. But the virus still has the upper hand.” Ebola has already killed 1,400 people in West Africa. The second article tells us about a ‘Briton’ called William Pooley. He’s being cared for at the Royal Free Hospital in London and has been given the experimental drug ZMapp. The doctors describe him as a “resilient and remarkable young man” who is now sitting up, reading and chatting. He’s a volunteer nurse and he got the virus in Sierra Leone.
Given the attention it’s receiving, you’d figure Ebola was a horrible, life-threatening disease and you’d be making sure to steer clear of it. In fact, you could describe reporting of it as something of a medical panic. There’s no doubt it’s a deadly disease but even deadly diseases are relative. The Ebola outbreak was spotted last February: since then some 300,000 people have died from malaria and 600,000 from tuberculosis. And there’s more. Between now and next April, a deadly disease for which there is no known cure will strike in Britain, Ireland, the US and other countries. It’ll kill between 250,000 and 500,000 people. It’s called the flu. Not Asian flu or some new, unfamiliar flu. Just your regular boring old flu. Kills tens of thousands.
But who wants to read two articles in the Belfast Telegraph about flu? Far better go with the media flow and scare the bejasus out of us with something foreign-sounding and lethal. What ever happened to that disease we all could have got if we ate meat? Or the flesh-eating disease that devoured its victims? Virtually every summer we get some disease from which a limited number of people have died, and we’re subjected to a media barrage that makes us want to do a Howard Hughes/Michael Jackson and climb inside a germ-resistant capsule and stay there.
The one consolation is that the media mislead us with quarter-truths in disease matters only. In everything else they give us the unstretched truth. Right?