Infectious Diseases

Ebola was the first time I really realized how different health systems around the world really were. Ebola outbreaks occur everyday in some countries, but the minute it entered the United States, it was immediately nipped in the bud. There may be some systems that work better than ours, but Americans are extremely lucky in that they have the choice with modern medicine to decide what treatment they want, and if they want it. People in third world nations usually are not so fortunate to even get a say. In Paul Farmer Reader’s article Partner to the Poor he explains structural violence as a reason to why this may happen. He defines this as a way of “describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harms way. The arrangements are structure because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world, they are violence because they cause injury to people.” A prime example of this is with another outbreak of Cholera in Peru in the 1990s. (Gabriel 2016)

In these nations, the population is high and the standard of living is low. Surroundings are very dirty, and medical treatment isn’t up to standards, and that’s another reason these diseases occur. The United States has tried to help in many ways. Stated on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “in response to the outbreak, CDC activated its emergency operations center to coordinate technical assistance and control activities with other US government agencies, the world health organization, and other domestics and international partners CDC also deployed teams of public health experts to West Africa.” The issue here is that they should have medical assistance just as good as ours to not need as much assistance. But something they for sure cannot do there is quarantine the sick and leave them to die. In (the movie) I found it very interesting that Dr. Paul farmer mentioned that there was a huge difference in isolation and quarantine without care. Isolation calls for supportive care, and as Farmer said, that doesn’t mean having someone to hold your hand, it means having the medical attention you need while being isolated to prevent it from spreading. When two missionaries went to Africa and contracted Ebola, this is exactly what happened. They received the medical attention they needed and were fortunately treated with a controversial drug- but it worked nonetheless. This is why an outbreak of any sorts, is unlikely in the US. There will always be new outbreaks arising, because we can never predict the future. Even today we have the Zika virus, and the Flint water crisis. What we can do now is to try our hardest to prevent and prepare for surprises that arise. A way we can do this is by having a say in our tax dollars.

“2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 22, 2016. Accessed August 05, 2016.

Gabriel, Cynthia, “Critical Medical Anthropological Theory.” Accessed Aug 5, 2016.

Democracy Now! “Dr. Paul Farmer on African Ebola Outbreak: Growing Inequality in Global Healthcare at Root of Crisis.” Accessed Aug 5, 2016.


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