Via Vox.com, Julia Belluz writes: Ebola doctor Craig Spencer says media's disease hype was deadly. Click through for her full report plus many links and graphics. Excerpt:
Yesterday, I was on the phone with a Liberian man who survived the world's worst Ebola epidemic. I asked him to rate his fear of the virus during the height of spread in his home city, Monrovia. When he knew little about the disease, he said, he was extremely fearful, even preemptively pulling his children out of their classes before schools across the country shutdown.
But as he learned more, his fears went away. "Ebola is simple," he reasoned, calmly. "Obey the rules and you won't get infected."
Then he said something interesting: "The media hype on Ebola was so much that the fear of Ebola probably killed a lot of people."
He was speaking from experience: his sister-in-law, who was three months pregnant, died because no one would admit her to a hospital when she was having problems with her pregnancy. Irrational fears about the virus, he believes, caused many of the doctors and nurses to walk off the job in Monrovia, and turn otherwise healthy patients like his beloved family member away.
This fear, he said, was entirely whipped up by the media who focused too much on conspiracy theories and pseudoscience and not enough on educating the public about the virus.
He's not the first to observe that the overwrought reactions to this virus had damaging effects. Closer to home, Dr. Craig Spencer — who became infamous for bowling with Ebola in New York — said much the same thing in a new piece in the New England Journal of Medicine.