Some have paid very dearly for their new knowledge and some few have leveraged the event to try and make a buck or draw more attention to themselves or their trade.
Many have been scared - few outside Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have had a real need to be - but fear of this tiny killer is understandable. I stand by my comments on that from back in August when the United States woke up to what had been happening in west Africa for five months, and promptly started freaking out...without evidence of any widespread threat or danger.
|Not everyone has a library on everything|
EVD in west Africa helped generate a lot of publicly accessible descriptive information about some of the technical language of infectious disease outbreaks. But there could be more. New information for public consumption should be...
- Clear, simple information that can be easily read and shared using today's short, punchy and graphic-laden social media communication tools
- Information that is quick and easily found or can be found using (way more) friendly search engines. A page of 2,000+ poorly descriptive results returned from a keyword search...is not helpful
- Broad descriptions about broad topics - not just narrow descriptions for one aspect of one outbreak caused by one virus. We need to explain the wider patterns that are shared among many outbreaks and by many viruses. Ebola virus is not the first bloodborne virus, not the first sexually transmitted virus, not the first virus to spread in vomit and faces or by droplets, or to survive on surfaces, or to mutate, or to have an RNA genome, or to be detected by RT-PCR, or to have its genome sequenced, or to be the trigger for contact tracing, or to have just appeared in west Africa in 2014...etc. Start tying these patterns together to give the public a better sense of what we live with every day, instead of responding to the now and the scary.
- A single online, well formatted (for multiple devices) site that hosts all this information provided, checked, updated and agreed upon by experts in the fields, written by communicators and hosted by the new and improved World Health Organization (WHO). The world needs a one-stop outbreak info shop that it can rely on. And that shop should be staffed by assistants who are available to answer questions or direct customers to the aisles best suited to their needs. We expect access to information and answers to questions from our phone company, so why not from our World's health experts?
- Using better citation to acknowledge the reference material in public health information - what is so wrong with letting everyone know what the guidelines are guided by? Anecdotal is not enough.
- Date stamped to make it clear when it was written and when it was updated. Am I looking at contemporary thinking - or something from 2 days ago before that major discovery/event changed everything we knew about virus X?
There will always be a portion of the public who seek their news and detail from the loudest and most garish 'news' source. There are also many who would like to be the smartest person at water cooler - but not if that comes at the expense of trying to locate and then wade through reams of technical guff.
More expert detail, simply presented, to more people, from a trusted site, quickly and for free.
The next 'Ebola' might have a much harder time getting traction in a territory if its population is ready for it, or can get up to speed quickly.