Epidemic: Spread measures of control

The way information about controlling the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) spread like wild-fire could not be uncommon between the media; rumour-mongers; and the general populace.

The criterial point being that majority of people now have access to internet facilities and operate social media platforms – which they use to publish their two-step-flow information.

Such information may possess some factual elements, but are mostly misleading, and are capable to spike unwholesome behaviours, like controversies or crisis between people.

When the so called media even started to report the Ebola Disease from the index case – fear was manufactured along their news reports and it did not take long before the whole of Nigeria was gripped with fear: social media enthusiasts then added salt to injury.

… This only confirms that the media sometimes can mislead: the trend is the same – the world over.

In Malaysia, the media did something – manufactured fear in their news report and threw the country into confusion, as they (media) were told to stop creating ‘panic’ with unsubstantiated reports of suspected Ebola cases.

Malaysia Health Minister, Dr. S. Subramaniam, during a press conference said, “The government has no intention to hide details from the public and an investigation on a sick patient should not be taken to mean the individual has contracted the deadly disease.

“I want to explain to the media, since many papers ran headlines screaming of a suspected Ebola case. You can’t report it that way, as it’s wrong.

“If I have fever and am admitted for it, can I be suspected for Ebola?”.

Subramaniam cited recent reports on the 24-year-old Zimbabwean in Sarawak, and noted that although the youth was merely admitted for observation, the media reports on his case had caused unwanted panic.

“There must be certain criteria before someone is diagnosed for Ebola.

“When the ministry tells you that they are investigating someone for Ebola, then it’s fine, but you (media) should not take it to your hands to assume it in such a way as the whole country panics.

“Only take it as such (suspected Ebola) when we tell you… we have nothing to hide, the disease detection and quarantine system at the country’s entry points are also put on alert at all times”. Subramaniam said.

The ministry further confirmed that the suspected Ebola case in Sarawak did not involve the deadly disease, after the Zimbabwean student who triggered the scare tested negative for the virus, just as its director-general, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said, “The student only has a respiratory tract infection and is recovering well at the Kuching General Hospital.

“The Health Ministry ran lab tests from clinical samples obtained from the patient at the National Public Health Laboratory in Sungai Buloh, which came back negative from Ebola virus.

“We want to reiterate that there have been no confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in Malaysia.

“However, we have taken measures to prepare for such an eventuality, the Ministry, through the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre is monitoring the situation”. He said.

One will wonder where most these information emanate from, but it will be good for every one that has information in his or her coven to make enquiries before releasing such information to the public in order to avoid panic, and mis-understanding that could result into crisis.

The media, of course, cannot be overlooked in the maintenance of democracy but their news reporting must be factual and not subjective… the media should try to reduce the rate at which people are mis-guided by their headlines, all in the bid to sell the papers in haste: they should consider the interest of the country of their operations.

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