Ignorance and Ebola

A host of Fox’s "The Five", Andrea Tantaros, was recently pilloried by the liberal media for making the “outrageous” comment that part of the problem with containing the Ebola virus in West Africa was the local’s distrust of modern medicine and that they often preferred the counsel of “witch doctors”. This was called racist stereotyping. The problem is, she was right. UN Aid workers have confirmed that the people in rural villages often refrain from taking people infected with the virus to Western doctors and instead look for treatment with the folk medicine provided by respected shamans. In one incident, eight medical workers were killed by villagers who blamed them for the outbreak.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that families in West Africa have been bribing body retrieval teams not to report the cause of death as Ebola. That way, the bodies can be released to the family for traditional burial. This often includes bathing the body. This practice has been cited as a major cause of the spread of the virus. The desire to both follow tradition and avoid the stigma of having a family member dying of the dreaded disease is proving a major obstacle to controlling the epidemic.

There is another form of ignorance on our side of the Atlantic in that politically correct pundits attack any effort to draw attention to this dangerous behavior by claiming racism for the crime of telling the truth. There is undoubted value in some folk treatments, but when it comes to virulent viruses the embrace of tradition and custom can become downright suicidal. Even when condoms were supplied by the truckload to stem the AIDS epidemic, African women had to struggle with men who refused to use them. Of course, there are Western men with similar attitudes but the alternative of a needless and lingering death eventually won them over. There was also the simple fact that Western women have fewer reservations about saying “no”. Knowledge should not be feared by anyone and we always need a reminder of its power. 

Victor Keith writes from Burbank, California and can be contacted at victorakeith.com