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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Ebola-Phobia Grips Sierra Leone and the World
By Captain Saio S. Marrah (Rtd) Expert in International Relations and International Security Studies
Aug 19, 2014, 17:02
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The dreadful and appalling Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) may not have reached other parts of the world, yet the paranoia has already set in among the community of nations world-wide. Albeit the WHO and other expertshave issued series of guidelines on prevention of the virus, there is widespread panic among people world-wide. Such fear, paranoia and panic is what we refer to as phobia, and as such phobia is related to theEbola Virus Disease, one can coin the phraseology Ebola-phobia - that is to say, the fear and anxiety of Ebola.


I want my readers to understand that I am a Social Scientist but would rather venture into the Natural realm in order to illuminate the ramifications of Ebola-phobia. In an attempt to demystify and divulge the phobia (or fear) and anxiety permeated in Ebola, certain natural scientific terminologies appear to be inevitable in making complete sense of the debate. In this light therefore, I want you to comprehend that the use of these scientific jargons aren't deliberate but certainly inevitable.

Hypochondriasis or Health-phobia is anextreme anxiety or worry about having a seriousdisease. This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition. Hypochondriacs (people suffering from Hypochondriasis) become unduly alarmed about any physical or psychological symptoms they detect and which may seem convincing that they have, or are about to be diagnosed with, a serious illness.For instance, a Hypochondriac having a persistent cough might think that s/he is suffering from tuberculosis eventhough no diagnosis has proven that. The situation usually entails a hyper-vigilance of the body, mind and ones surrounding where a tendency to react to the initial perceptions in a negative manner is acute and fundamentallydevastating.


Captain Saio S. Marrah (Rtd)

Some people have numerous intrusive thoughts and physical sensations that push them to check with family, friends, and physicians.Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus disease in Sierra Leone, and especially after the death of Dr. Khan and Dr. Cole, Ebola-Phobia has mushroomed the entire country. People are hysterical, panic-stricken and terrified about the spread of the disease. For instance, a person who has a minor headache and fever may think that s/he hasEbola -the early symptoms of which(fever, headache and joint pain) are almost impossible to distinguish from other tropical diseases such as Malaria, Typhoid, Lassa-fever  etc without a blood test.


As the Ebola kills 90% of its patients, those that have contracted it livein utter despair and depression, for they are certain that they have a life-threatening disease that no physician can possibly cure. Even people who are suspected of having contracted the Ebola Virus (due to their interaction with a patient who might have died from the disease) and quarantined for twenty one days feel like a man/woman on death row waiting for the arrival of the Executioner in the gallows. It's a twenty one days hell on earth. It's terrifying, it's horrifying and it's horrendous and simply scary.


Many people with Ebola-phobia experience a cycle of intrusive thoughts followed by compulsive checking.In many cases, it has been noticed that the phobia of Ebola is mostly accompanied by obsessive-compulsive disorder; under which circumstance, the individual constantly washes his/her hands or takes frequent bath to become germ free. Ebola-phobia can take such a serious turn that you may even develop the tendency of locking yourself at home as a means of safety precaution.

 

It is true that some amount of fear is necessary to keep the Ebola disease under control hence it's a form of health and hygiene consciousness. However, being hyper-hysterical about the Ebola Virus Disease was and is never a solution to the problem.It's visibly evident that, the fear of Ebola is itself a diseased condition that affects innumerable people by making them psychologically sick and unstable. Such Ebola-phobic circumstances have causedserious panic, suspicion and mistrust amongst us.The paranoia attached to Ebola-phobia has glitteringly demonstrated the followingsymptoms on people who are Ebola free; rapid and frequent breathing,sweating and being panicky,shortness of breath,unequal heartbeat andan overall feeling of dread.

 

Dr. Terry Gibson, former consultant physician at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust who is volunteering at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, said "organisations in the city had withdrawn staff, closed services and abandoned projects". Why such unscrupulous actions? The simplest answer is Ebola-phobia. The phobia of Ebola is also evident amongst Doctors and Nurses and with the death of two doctors and an unspecified number of nurses, the degree of Ebola-phobia is on the increase.

Kenya has refused entry of passengers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, while British Airways and Gambia Bird have both suspended flights to and from Sierra Leone until the end of August - despite warnings from the WHO that Ebola isn't an Air Borne Disease and therefore flights to Ebola affected countries shouldn't be interrupted. But the tight grip of Ebola-phobia has impacted on people's psychology and rationality.The fight against Ebola is winnable and gradually we are winning it. But what is significant at this point is to educate and enlighten people about precautionary means and efficiently spread the knowledgefar and wide. We should demystify and deflate the fear factor or phobia attached to Ebola and effectively presents factand not myth if we are to conquer Ebola as soon as possible.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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