"Violent attacks are winning, and infections are unchecked."
May 27, 2019 4:13 AM   Subscribe

I always thought the new Dark Age would start with a natural disaster or plague, and then we would lose our knowledge and perhaps have to start over. Instead, we are losing our knowledge-- our understanding of history, our understanding of science, our understanding of what underpins society-- and it is causing natural disasters and plagues.
posted by acrasis at 8:13 AM on May 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

I couldn’t help but think that attacking the WHO and firing on hospitals is exactly how the anti-science, pro-gun morons in the US would respond to an outbreak.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2019 [21 favorites]

Instead, we are losing our knowledge-- our understanding of history, our understanding of science, our understanding of what underpins society-- and it is causing natural disasters and plagues.

Obviously this distrust of medical professionals (which probably reflects a wider distrust of authorities in general) isn’t limited to the DRC and other least-developed countries. It’s the same phenomenon as anti-vax cranks in rich Western countries, giving their kids measles to own the epistemologists.

And sometimes knowledge doesn’t need to be rejected, it can just be... lost. This is the subject of Maciej Cegłowski’s brilliant essay Scott and Scurvy.
Today we know that scurvy is due solely to a deficiency in vitamin C, a compound essential to metabolism that the human body must obtain from food. Scurvy is rapidly and completely cured by restoring vitamin C into the diet.

Except for the nature of vitamin C, eighteenth century physicians knew this too. But in the second half of the nineteenth century, the cure for scurvy was lost. The story of how this happened is a striking demonstration of the problem of induction, and how progress in one field of study can lead to unintended steps backward in another.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2019 [13 favorites]

That mistrust of anyone employed in the medical services is horrifying. The quote from the person whose own friends had gained employment as drivers for a clinic, where he straight out says he no longer trusts their motives? That sounds a lot worse than ordinary mistrust of the authorities.
posted by vincebowdren at 11:32 AM on May 27, 2019

It's a perfect storm of a horrific disease meeting a poor, remote, war-torn population, right on the borders of half a dozen neighbouring countries. If it breaks out into Uganda, any international response has to be split, and becomes far more complicated.

I hadn't spotted this yesterday, but apparently an adaptation of one of the most terrifying non-fiction books I've ever read, Richard Preston's The Hot Zone [interview with Preston], has just started on the National Geographic Channel. Here's a National Geographic article on the current outbreak.
posted by rory at 1:41 AM on May 28, 2019

I suspect that the reactionary resistance to medicine in many places has its roots in something substantively different from comparatively wealthy white people in the US rejecting basic knowledge that would be easily accessible for them.

There may be some relation here to anti-vaxxers, but the history of foreign doctors intervening in the Congo basin contains full-on atrocities. FFS, the Congo Free State wasn't really that long ago.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:17 AM on May 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

But from the Guardian piece by the Congolese doctor, the issues with this outbreak have been worse than before, so it's not just leftover distrust, and not just of foreign doctors. But of course, given ethnic divisions, they might view other Congolese as foreigners.

I'm assuming it's driven by such dynamics, along with I'd guess militias promoting distrust to keep foreign intervention out of their areas. But wow, this quote sure could come from any American antivaxer:

"I do blame the response teams for one thing: they did not prepare us [for the crisis] in a good way. They held a seminar to explain how to respond to the disease, but they tried to force us to understand."

I swear I've heard that 'tried to force us to understand' line in the US.
posted by tavella at 9:15 AM on May 28, 2019

Great link, XMLicious, thanks. From that article:

Sweet has been monitoring WhatsApp texts, radio broadcasts and leaflets about Ebola, working with colleagues based in the outbreak zone. She's found that for months mostly anonymous authors have been claiming that Ebola is a hoax, perpetrated by the government to drum up foreign aid dollars and corral residents of communities that are hostile to the government into treatment centers.

In recent weeks, she said, another rumor has been gaining ground: that Ebola is a real disease, but the government and international health workers are infecting local people with it on purpose. For instance, said Sweet, some rumormongers have written that "that the Ebola response team was dumping the Ebola virus into latrines."

posted by rory at 3:35 AM on June 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Massive Ebola outbreak spreads across DRC border, infected 5-year-old in Uganda
Health authorities are scrambling to keep the deadly virus from spreading further.
Health officials in Uganda have confirmed the country’s first case of Ebola stemming from a massive outbreak that has been raging across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since August of 2018.


With the potential for the outbreak to spread, Uganda has already vaccinated 4,700 health workers in 165 health facilities and has intensified monitoring. The experimental vaccine being used in the outbreak is 97.5% effective at preventing the viral disease, preliminary data suggests. Ebola treatment centers, like the one in Bwera, are already set up. Further, the WHO has dispatched a Rapid Response team to monitor those who had contact with the boy and help with the response.

In April, the WHO’s Emergency Committee concluded that the outbreak did not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which would have freed more resources to address the spread of the virus. The WHO may reconsider the situation now that the virus has spread across a border.
posted by XMLicious at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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