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Ebola is spreading again, but the world isn't interested.

  • Written by News Jamaica source: TeleSUR
  • Published in Health
  • 0 comments
Sierra Leone has been hardest hit by the epidemic | Photo: Reuters Sierra Leone has been hardest hit by the epidemic | Photo: Reuters
As international interest in Ebola wanes, the virus has again spiked in West Africa, according to figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday.

In the final week of January, rates of new infections rose for the first time in 2015 in all three West African nations worst hit by Ebola. “There were 124 new confirmed cases reported in the week to 1 February: 39 in Guinea, 5 in Liberia, and 80 in Sierra Leone,” the WHO said in its latest situation report on the disease.

A total of 22,495 people have now been infected by the disease since the worst outbreak on record began in late 2013. The WHO's latest figures put the death toll at 8981. At least half the people who are hospitalized with the strain of Ebola ravaging West Africa won't survive the disease, according to the latest fatality rate estimates.

The uptick in new cases came after weeks of optimism that the outbreak was slowly receding. In mid January, the WHO itself declared the fight against Ebola had reached a “turning point,” after infection rates plummeted across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

However, Dr. Christopher Dye, the director of strategy in the office of the director general of WHO conceded at the time there was "no basis for complacency" in fighting Ebola because there was always the risk of a resurgence of the virus.

Similar sentiments were expressed by David Nabarro, the U.N. system coordinator for Ebola just days earlier. "We have a very attractive and promising situation that leads us to believe that perhaps we are beginning to see the end of the outbreak … Unfortunately it's not quite as simple and the reason for that is any case of Ebola in the region can restart an outbreak very quickly,” he said in January.

As Ebola appears to once again be in resurgence, international interest in the epidemic is dropping.

 According to Google search data, U.S. interest in Ebola has been in a dramatic decline since late October 2014. Interest spiked shortly after news broke that a doctor had tested positive for the disease in New York.

“I think largely the human impulse is to say we're worried because it could reach our shores,” assistant professor in epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Dana March told CBS.

"The attention has really diverted away from the epidemic; people aren't seeing it as a threat in the U.S. anymore," March explained.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post compared Google searches on Ebola with measles. Interest in the latter disease surpassed Ebola somewhere in mid January.

“Measles, hot. Ebola, not,” the Post's Philip Bump concluded.

Yet decreasing interest isn't limited to the United States. Worldwide search data from Google shows a similar, gradual decrease in Ebola related searches over the past three months.

It's also not just Google users that don't see Ebola as a priority.

Earlier this week the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) released new research suggesting less than half of international donations earmarked for the battle against Ebola reached affected countries.

According to the study, around US$2.9 billion was pledged to fight Ebola in 2014, but only US$1.9 billion arrived by the year's end in West African nations struggling with the disease.

These delays ... may have contributed to the spreading of the virus,” explained Karen Grepin, the head researcher behind the grim new study.

Testing of a new drug that could help victims is also being put on hold, according to an announcement from Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday. According to the agency, there simply “aren't enough sick people” for the study to continue.  

Analysis

teleSUR counters mainstream media sensationalism with a series of articles that look at the real Ebola stories: prevention, solidarity, health care struggles, the effects of neoliberalism in Africa, racism, and more.

The Other Side of Ebola: US Soldiers Can't Fight a Virus: Former U.S. Army Captain Field Artillery Officer Michael McPhearson is skeptical that soldiers can be trained by the military for this kind of humanitarian work. “The military trains you to fight wars,” he said. “The interactions with civilians are not good. In many countries, the civilian populations wish we would leave.”

The Other Side of Ebola: Capitalism’s Weak Resistance to Ebola: While the media focuses on airport security and other similar measures to "prevent" Ebola spreading, they distract from what is really at the heart of Ebola spreading in Western Africa: the systematic historic and economic plundering of the region.

The Other Side of Ebola: Who's Afraid of Public Health? The United States' hysterical response to Ebola in Africa reveals more about fears for their own system than they are aware, writes teleSUR staff writer and former nurse Georgia Platman.

The Other Side of Ebola: When the Media Causes Doubts and Fear: Since Guinea first declared the Ebola outbreak in March, several U.S. media outlets have found several ways to promote fear that goes from suggesting all Africans are sick, to even linking the virus to terrorist organizations.

The Other Side of Ebola: It Is Preventable: Ebola is preventable, controllable, and curable, if the right things are prioritized.

The Other Side of Ebola: Ooga Booga Journalism: The mainstream media's coverage of Ebola is a reiteration of the colonial discourse that justifies treating Africans as sub-human.

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