Professor’s Choice: One Year Later, Ebola Outbreak Offers Lessons for New Epidemic

This New York Times article by Sheri Fink and Pam Belluck was quite engaging to read, despite its length. They did a great job of presenting the issue comprehensively, and in explaining it in depth and detail, which is unusual for news stories. Contrary to some of the other sensational news coverage on the Ebola epidemic, I learned quite a bit from reading this article. It was accurate and clear information, very well written. They presented a compelling argument at the very end of the article, about the level of preparedness of different countries in Africa for dealing with epidemics, and what it means to make improvements in regards to that. According to the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. of the 14 countries they surveyed, all but 4 were less than 28% prepared to deal with epidemics. It shows that it is crucial to establish now a prevention system for the future. However, a few of these seemingly unprepared countries had enough resources and strategies to effectively stop the outbreak, namely Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. This shows the importance of understanding social and cultural dynamics when dealing with health crises such as this one. In fact, the mobilization of communities proved to be a game changer in the success of treatment campaigns. The journalists also wrote a brilliant kicker: “the biggest mistake the world could do right now is blink”. These words will stay with me for a long time, as the reader. They made think and reflect very deeply on everything I just read. It’s the kind of words that you don’t just read, but savor. It’s really fantastic.

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About beawink

Graphic designer, illustrator, avid reader, and typography enthusiast.

4 Responses to “Professor’s Choice: One Year Later, Ebola Outbreak Offers Lessons for New Epidemic”

  1. Beginning with a quick and effective synopsis of the outbreak’s beginnings, this article captures the reader’s attention very quickly, and makes good use of examples throughout to support its point. I especially liked it because it took what in retrospect feels like a push for panic in the pursuit of ratings, as was suggested in some of the other readings, and made that a usable blueprint toward what needs to happen next time. There will always be a next time. I also liked the acknowledgement that a failure to consider the importance of local customs did a great deal of harm in getting patients and families to comply with requests that went against traditions held dear during a time of personal crisis. It would have been even better if a bit more detail on said customs was laid out, as I understand that some of the burial customs, particularly the methods of cleaning and preparing the body are a HUGE means of transmission regarding Ebola. The article was able to point out many misfires, and still kept a positive, optimistic tone. I think that goes a long way in retaining the interest, and more importantly, making the reader continue to think about the subject of the article long after the reading is finished.

  2. I think there were many interesting pieces and facts in this article, however I also felt the article quickly jumped from one topic to another and was confusing to follow at times. I think they tried to out too much information all in one article without fully explaining everything (and if something is not going to be fully explained you might as well cut it out). I also did not like the continued jump between “we did well” and “we did not handle it well.” I agree with Mel that their lede was very attention grabbing – hearing that the recent Ebola outbreak was the largest in history would make me want to keep reading to hear what else they had to say. The kicker has potential…(I think what they are trying to get at is that if we act as if the ebola problem has been solved and no further containment and preparation is necessary that it might creep back and another massive outbreak could occur) If this is what the kicker is trying to say then I think it does a good job in leaving us with foreboding thoughts.

  3. I agree with what Beatriz said, in that this article does a wonderful job reporting accurate information. This is the kind of journalism that is especially important for covering the topic of epidemics. When ebola cases were seen in the U.S., sensationalized coverage scared a lot of people, and it was blown way out of proportion because some news sources were not accurately reporting on the transmission behavior of the disease. This has severe unintended consequences. By sensationalizing the story, attention is diverted from what is really important in combating the disease, which is the fundamental lack of healthcare personnel and resources in countries suffering most from the epidemic, as well as the cultural practices that must be respected, yet are contributing to the spread of disease. This article did a great job, with powerful quotes, reporting on these structural issues that underly the ebola epidemic.

  4. Reading this feature is telling to me. It shows that after some time has passed, and things have been sorted out, it is possible to get all the facts straight. I think this article is great journalism all around because it has hard facts. And as Mel said, though talking about death, despair, and problems with treatment of Ebola, it was able to reflect these things in an optimistic, interesting tone that kept me glued until the very end. The lede was eye-grabbing, and put raw emotion in the article without sensationalizing. It didn’t have the “what this outbreak could be in the worst possible doomsday scenario”, rather reflected on the events and facts that have happened.

    I liked how the article examined the response to the outbreak so thoroughly, and focused on the US government’s lack of interest until the outbreak had already died down, and 28 volunteer doctors had already been infected.

    Overall, this was a refreshing read and I thought I learned a lot by reading this.

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