As the Ebola virus rages on in West Africa, the world is assessing the best way to address this epidemic. Discourse in the United States has revolved around many issues – including an air travel ban – which have caused an uproar in the public health sector. But what is really shaping the responses towards the Ebola epidemic? How does the media filter our understanding of what is happening in these crisis zones?
English Professor Priscilla Wald contributes her expertise on cultural narratives of disease, and journalist Jonathan Katz shares his experiences writing about the cholera epidemic in Haiti. The panel addresses how the media can influence the population’s reaction and response to epidemics around the world.
Journalist and Author
Jonathan M.Katz is a journalist and author. As the Associated Press chief correspondent in Haiti, he survived and was first to internationally report the January 2010 earthquake, then stayed to cover the aftermath and flawed recovery that followed. That fall he broke the story that the United Nations likely caused—and was covering up its role in—a postquake cholera epidemic that killed thousands more. Prior to moving to Haiti, he was based for two years in the Dominican Republic. Katz is now a freelance journalist covering international and domestic affairs.
Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture, particularly literature of the late-18th to mid-20th centuries, contemporary narratives of science and medicine, science fiction literature and film, and environmental studies. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science and medicine. Her recent book-length study, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, considers the intersection of medicine and myth in the idea of contagion and the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of "emerging infections."