Everyone’s an expert on Ebola

Science communication

Just a short post today to make mention of an article in the Weekend Australia Inquirer section which dealt with Ebola in a surprisingly tasteful manner (if we by pass the title ‘death and danger on the seething front line of Ebola’).

Jamie Walker, associate editor of the section, reported on developments in Ebola through the eyes of anesthetist Jenny Stedmon who worked with the Red Cross in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

Dr Jenny Stedmon preparing clothing for medical staff - Picture Katherine Mueller
Dr Jenny Stedmon preparing clothing for medical staff – Picture Katherine Mueller

What I’d like to bring your attention to is the way Jamie introduces Jenny as a reliable and relevant expert. He leads with her experience in other crises (“At 55, she has worked in war zones in the sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and treated typhoon victims in the Philippines.”) and talks about her work in west Africa rather than focusing on just the horror of the disease (“In Kenema her advanced medical training counted for little. To begin with, she helped triage patients at the local hospital…her next job was to set up a containment camp in a clearing outside the town.”).

At a time when reporting on Ebola is sensationalist and unfortunately doesn’t shy away from speculation, this story was a welcome break.

Everyone’s an expert (even me?)

Yes, Ebola is scary. We don’t have a vaccine or a cure. But, haven’t you noticed how the panic around these concepts spreads sensationalised stories like wildfire?

If you’re interested in reading about the perspective of epidemiologists and other infectious disease researchers have a look through this AMA from Reddit on Ebola.

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