Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Racializing, Criminalizing, and Militarizing the Ebola Virus

Health & Fitness ---

So, here we go again! The racializing of the so-called Ebola virus.  Whenever a new virus or a new disease is in town, its origins seems to always be Africa.  And of course what immediately seems to come to mind for many are dark-skinned people as the bearers, never mind that there are many light-skinned people who live in that continent. Now, what many people don't realize is that the Ebola virus is a member of the filovirus family - a family of virus of which very little is known and which symptom is the dreaded hemorrhagic fever.  The first known outbreak of this type of virus (now lumped under the name, Ebola) occurred in 1967 in Marburg and in Frankfurt, Germany (not Africa!).  The second outbreak occurred in Zaire in 1976, and the third outbreak occurred in the US (Reston, Virginia) in 1986.  In all these occurrences there were fatalities, with the majority occurring in Zaire.  Since the first outbreak affected mostly laboratory workers, one question that has to be asked is whether this virus is a synthetic virus created by researchers, especially as it emerges against the back drop of the interest of powerful nations in bio-weapons.

But what is also troubling is the military response to the current Ebola virus - sending in troops (probably already vaccinated, suggesting a vaccine does in fact exist?) to combat the virus, with the US in Liberia, the French in Guinea, and the British in Sierra Leone.  This feels like the recolonization of these countries all over again by their once colonial masters and the continued militarization of Africa.  How about a civilian response to the crisis, with civilian medical leadership involving countries all over the world, countries that are the leaders in medical technology.  One has to question also whether the motive behind this military mobilization is indeed humanitarian or something else.  What is also obvious is that the countries most severely affected by this Ebola virus are countries which health infrastructure (medical facilities, clean water, etc.) are in disarray, no doubt resulting from one-sided negotiations that benefit such bodies as the World Bank, the IMF, and big trans-national corporations and companies.  And how interesting, now that a few cases of Ebola have been detected here in the US, we are barely hearing anything about the current impact of the virus in West Africa, and those suspected of having the virus have been treated almost as if they are criminals.