Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Ebola, enterovirus, and the dark side of people

ebola virusFor several weeks, concern has been building to a level that is becoming close to a panic here in the U.S. People are very concerned about the potential spread of the Ebola virus. Parents are worried about their children being affected by Enterovirus D-68. Their concerns are certainly justified, as these diseases can have serious or fatal outcomes.

During times of crisis, I always thought that we saw the good side of people. And to some extent, we have. I know there are medical staff from my own organization who have jeopardized their own health and safety to go to Liberia to join others and help address the Ebola outbreak there. These are the people who are doing good and have stepped up to the plate to help their fellow man.

Unfortunately, what is becoming more apparent to me is that times like these also bring out the worst in people, and their ability to be cruel. Let me explain what I mean. There are people who call in “anonymous tips” from a hospital saying there is an area quarantined and that someone with Ebola is there. Or a hospital nurse who calls into a radio talk show to report she doesn’t know how to use protective gear and staff are frightened and declare the hospital is not prepared to deal with it (when in fact it is).

What do these people think they are accomplishing? Do they find it funny? I’m sorry but I fail to see the humor in any of this. Are they disgruntled staff who think they are hurting their employer’s reputation by reporting such false information? If that’s the case I hope there are repercussions for their actions.

Such actions not only instill fear, but also diminish the public’s trust that the hospital is prepared to handle such an outbreak. And social media only adds fuel to the fire. People actually became ill due to a false rumor that circulated across the globe telling people drinking salt water would protect them from Ebola. These rumors even resulted in deaths. 

To me, what may be even more disturbing are also those irresponsible members of the media who use their position to further stir up panic due to ignorance, ego or a lack of understanding of how false information can spread like wildfire. Rather than doing what responsible members of the media would do and report the facts only, and do their best to quell a panic, there are the members of the media, who are out there stirring up their own levels of panic: the radio talk show host who falsely announces that a man with Ebola was vomiting outside a major trauma center, and who declares that the hospital is not ready to care for these patients (his opinion). Then there is the nationally known doctor who appears on a morning talk show and declares that the virus could mutate and become airborne.

So come on people, act responsibly. Do your job, whether it be providing health care or reporting the news, get the facts straight, don’t start rumors, and help to allay the public’s fears, rather than add fuel to the fire.