Ebola – Epidemic or Outbreak?
Okay, it’s a trick question. The truth is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider these as different terms having the same meaning.
Only, which one inspires fear and which gets a shrug of the shoulders from most people? It’s kind of like screaming “shark” at the top of your lungs rather than “barracuda” on a crowded beach.
Shouting one will bring frenzied people out of the water while trampling anyone in their path to safety. The other will yield puzzled looks – at best. There are good reasons the media sensationalizes the word: epidemic.
Outbreak doesn’t cut-to-the-bone and make you rush out of the water like epidemic, does it? In recent survey results compiled by the CDC, 11% of Americans were classified as being “very concerned” with the recent headline-grabbing news about Ebola versus 21% that expressed at least “some concern.”
Add to this, the mass media bombarding us with stirring images of healthcare workers in full body suits, masks and goggles, and these effects have the desired effect of frightening most reasonable people out of their wits.
Is This Even An Outbreak?
But epidemic and outbreak are both such imposing words, aren’t they? As of October 22, 2014, the total number of suspected cases at Ground Zero in the three countries in West Africa numbers 9,915 with laboratory-confirmed cases of 5,481. The population of Liberia is 4.3 million, Sierra Leone is 6.1 million, Guinea is 11.75 million – 22.15 million collective residents.
This number of confirmed cases barely ticks the infection meter at .02 of the combined population. Nigeria – among the most populous and heavily travelled nearby African country has an infection rate of zero. This is an epidemic?
So What’s the Big Deal?
Like most presumed outbreaks of disease anywhere, people are most concerned about what they don’t know and understand. It’s this basic human trait we all know as fear of the unknown. Loads of mystery surrounds Ebola.
It has this chilling effect because most people simply don’t know anything about it.
Ebola has been the subject of more than a few fictional accounts about mystery killer-diseases that are glamorized and often overblown as out-of-control killers.
But the truth is, these disease “spikes” are rarely close to the epidemics painted and so expertly choreographed by governments and media. And pandemic is the word you should be really be concerned about if you ever hear it.
A Real Epidemic: Lesotho
Ever hear of this small country in East-central Africa? It was unknown until research uncovered it while assimilating data for this article about the current Ebola scare. Lesotho has less than one-half the population of Liberia with 1.94 million residents and a median age of 23.6 years – lots of young people.
This makes it a country with a population just a bit smaller than the state of Maryland.
Remember HIV/AIDS? Somehow, this disease has been neatly folded and put away in a closet – it doesn’t carry the frightening reputation it still deserves. Yet, in tiny Lesotho, 23.1% of the 1.94 million inhabitants have HIV/AIDS.
Over 358,000 HIV/AIDS infected residents live in Lesotho, and many will die from the disease. The mortality rate for AIDS remains astronomically high when left untreated – especially in Africa. Even with the best drug treatment programs and care known to man, survival from HIV/AIDS in Africa is a dicey proposition.
Poor hygiene and sanitation, low levels of literacy, and a severe shortage of physicians and medication allow diseases like AIDS, Ebola and others to flourish. Africa becomes a near-perfect storm of incubation for all manner of viral agents that are born, emerge and can be lethal. In many lesser-known parts of the world like Lesotho, HIV/AIDS infections are almost as frequent as the common cold, and pack a lethal pop.
Only, the common cold does not kill with the same chilling intensity AIDS or Ebola does. Bodies don’t almost disintegrate internally with the same speed and ruthlessness as Ebola, but it is a disease that thrives by weakening immune systems in a similarly gruesome fashion to AIDS.
HIV/AIDS also isn’t a current hot topic, so it isn’t as newsworthy as Ebola – the media doesn’t have a sensational story to tell. Although AIDS doesn’t make most of us quake in our boots any longer like Ebola does, which one is the epidemic that exists – unconquered – in many parts of the world, and as virulent and deadly as ever?
When considering the word: epidemic, perhaps it is best to take a look at what a real epidemic is and, just as importantly, where it is a reality today – now. Convert the infection percentage in tiny Lesotho to an outbreak in the U.S. at the same rate of infection, and the numbers in the U.S. would be 63 million infected out of a population of 317 million people.
This is an epidemic that enters the most fearsome evolution into another word that looms far larger: pandemic. This places Ebola into the category of mild “scares.” But it is being used in Hollywood-style government and media info-barrages.
It’s only one more tool – part of a mechanism – that will be responsible for selling untold thousands of masks, gloves, body suits and the like for lots of manufacturers and retailers. But of course, this is all in the interest of keeping you safe and protected from this killer disease – this “epidemic.”
HIV AIDS Virus
You’ve got to love free enterprise and government – especially when they are at their profiteering, fear-mongering best. After all, 11% of Americans – over 30 million highly-motivated consumers have entered the market to buy some kind of defense or protection based on the CDC numbers. They don’t know what kinds of “things” they are looking for or what works, but they are in the market to buy “something.”
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And all levels of government have to do “something” with all those troops that aren’t fighting somewhere, the committees and teams being organized, and lots of other government employees. They have to at least look like they are being active, vigilant and doing “something” to protect us.
Lesotho is but an example, and is only in third place in the world rankings for the percentage of population infected with HIV/AIDS. Another remote African country – Swaziland – comes in first in the statistical rankings at almost 26% of its 1.4 million inhabitants infected with HIV/AIDS.
Perhaps, before shouting shark about the latest super-virus and how it’s storming through the third-world and killing so many, we may want to take a look in the corners of the globe where real epidemics and even pandemics are alive and growing unchecked.
As much as you haven’t been told about the real epidemic in tiny Lesotho by government and news media (because it just isn’t newsworthy or sexy enough for anyone to care), someone is watching the happenings in this tiny country. One U.S. government fixture is watching these happenings, but they watch everything all the time anyway.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was among the primary sources of statistical data and information about Lesotho. When not spying on anything with a heartbeat or serving in our “best” interests, even the CIA has to do “something” that occasionally validates they actually do “things” for the U.S. taxpayer.