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The world is within the midst of a monkeypox outbreak. The World Well being Group has recorded greater than 500 circumstances in 30 nations this 12 months – together with the UK, america and quite a few European nations.
And the way do Western media retailers illustrate the story? The BBC, the Impartial, CNBC and ABC Information are amongst those who have used a inventory picture of a Black particular person with monkeypox blisters.
It might be as if Nigeria, which has seen 247 circumstances since 2017 and 66 to this point this 12 months, would use photographs solely of white individuals with monkeypox in masking its nationwide epidemic.
Africans and well being fairness advocates have been swift in reacting to the Western media’s use of Black arms and faces with monkeypox. Nigerian journalist Mercy Abang tweeted, “Right here is an instance of media bias at its best; monkeypox has been reported in nations worldwide, however a search reveals solely [photos of] blacks. Tragic.”
Dr. Madhu Pai, professor of epidemiology and world well being at McGill College, tweeted, “Journalists and editors of world North media retailers badly want coaching on tips on how to not be racist & stigmatizing of their reporting Ebola, Covid, monkeypox.”
The protection echoes media reporting following the outbreak in Nigeria in 2017. I used to be a co-author of a BMJ World Well being Journal overview of media protection of monkeypox. Here is how a narrative from the publication “Voice from Europe” described the primary case of monkeypox in England in 2018: a “horrible Nigerian illness known as monkeypox spreads in the UK for the primary time.”
The message then and now: Blame Africa for monkeypox.
Listed below are my solutions for Western journalists on tips on how to body the monkeypox story – and recommendation for public well being officers on tips on how to cope with the unfold of this illness.
Current the info.
The World Well being Group describes monkeypox as a zoonosis: a illness transmitted from animals to people. The virus primarily happens in Central and West Africa, usually in proximity to tropical rainforests. Nevertheless, it might crop up anyplace on the earth.
In 2003, the first outbreak of monkeypox exterior Africa was reported in six U.S. states – Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. That outbreak was brought on by human contact with contaminated prairie canines stored as pets. Prairie canines are herbivorous burrowing mammals native to the grasslands of North America; the pets had been reportedly contaminated after an Illinois animal distributor had reportedly housed them close to imported small mammals from Ghana.
That outbreak resulted in additional than 70 reported circumstances, all transmitted by contact with an contaminated prairie canine or with an individual who had been contaminated by a prairie canine.
Genetic proof reveals that the worldwide outbreak possible originated in Nigeria, however the virus has possible been spreading by person-to-person contact in Europe and the U.Okay. for months.
Examine the explanations behind the present outbreak.
There has at all times been a menace of monkeypox spreading internationally. But it surely hasn’t till now. So the job for journalists is to speak to scientists who’re attempting to see if one thing modified concerning the virus and the best way it spreads.
Take a look at how Africa is responding to monkeypox.
There isn’t a want for the affected nations to reinvent the wheel in preventing the unfold of this virus. Africa has the experience to forestall, detect and reply to infectious illness outbreaks. We do that routinely, together with for monkeypox. Lately, Ifedayo Adetifa, director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management, tweeted about Nigeria’s monkeypox expertise:
Nigeria’s 1st case of #MonkeyPox was recognized in 1971 and after a 40-year hiatus, monkeypox revisited in 2017. Since then, we’ve skilled sporadic circumstances and managed them. Now that there’s elevated consideration being paid to #Monkeypox, these are @NCDCgov sources on the topic.
The sources Adetifa shared contains the Nationwide Monkeypox Public Well being Response Pointers. The doc gives necessary data that might assist Western nations in responding to this outbreak in addition to enhance detection and prevention of future outbreaks. One necessary lesson from Nigeria is the establishing of a monkeypox emergency operations middle to coordinate all facets of the response, led by a senior workers member of the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management and supported by different world well being companies working within the nation.
In conclusion, this is what I would inform my youngsters.
If my two daughters, Yagazie, age 12, and Chimamanda, age 9, had been to ask me to elucidate what’s taking place with monkeypox, this is what I would inform them: Monkeypox outbreaks are frequent in Africa however can occur anyplace. The an infection is transmitted from some animals to people. Human to human transmission occurs when one comes into contact with sores and physique fluids of these contaminated. Circumstances are actually being reported in nations exterior Africa, and that is scaring individuals in these nations.
I might additionally give them some monkeypox prevention recommendation: Monkeypox just isn’t as lethal because it seems. The pressure at present circulating just isn’t usually deadly. Nevertheless, they have to at all times keep in mind to clean their palms anytime they get again house from an outing, simply as their mom and I’ve taught them to do – that is one of many measures that helps hold you secure from an infection
And in the event that they wished to know why there’s biased reporting in Western media, I would inform them that world well being has a colonial historical past and a few Western media retailers are holding on to the vestiges of colonialism by depicting Africa as a backwards, disease-ridden continent.
I might additionally inform them to not permit the media — or for that matter, anybody — make them really feel inferior as a result of they’re Black, and so they should hold pushing again.