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Analysis, Summary, and Interpretation of “Ebola River”

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1 Analysis, Summary, and Interpretation of “Ebola River”

2 Mr. Yu G was a salaried man. He worked at a desk in a room piled with cotton cloth at the back of the factory. Bats roosted in the ceiling of the room near his desk. If the bats were infected with Ebola, no one had been able to prove it. The virus may have entered the cotton factory by some unknown route—perhaps in insects trapped in cotton fibers, for example, or in the rats that lived in the factory. Or, possibly, the virus had nothing to do with the cotton factory, and Mr. Yu G. was infected somewhere else. He did not go to a hospital, and died on a cot in his family compound. His family gave him a traditional Zande funeral and left his body under a mound of stones in a clearing of elephant grass. His grave has been visited more than once by doctors from Europe and America, who want to see it and reflect on its meaning, and pay their respects to the index case of what later became known as Ebola Sudan. It hit the hospital like a bomb. It savaged patients and snaked like a chain lightning out from the hospital through patients’ families. Apparently the medical staff had been giving patients injections with dirty needles. The virus jumped quickly through the hospital via the needles, and then hit the medical staff. A characteristic of a lethal, contagious, and incurable virus is that it quickly gets into the medical people. In some cases, the medical system may intensify the outbreak, like a lens that focuses sunlight on a heap of tinder.

3 “…bats roosted in the ceiling in the room near his desk” “…rats that lived in the factory” “He did not go to the hospital, but died on a cot in his family compound.” “…the medical staff had been giving patients injections with dirty needles.” Preston describes the conditions at the cotton factory where rats and bats live in close proximity to factory workers. In the hospital, medical personal used contaminated needles. (Preston 20-21). Two basic human rights should be a safe working environment and reliable medical care. When Nzaran factory workers were exposed daily to potentially infectious rodents, this violated their humanity. Even worse, when they went to the hospital to be cured, but instead got infected because of unsanitary practices, this dehumanized them morally and physically.

4 The virus transformed the hospital at Maridi into a morgue. As it jumped from bed to bed, killing patients left and right, doctors began to notice signs of mental derangements, psychosis, depersonalization, zombie-like behavior. Some of the dying stripped off their clothes and ran out of the hospital, naked and bleeding, and wandered through the streets of the town, seeking their homes, not seeming to know what had happened or how they had gotten into this condition. There is no doubt that Ebola damages the brain and causes psychotic dementia. It is not easy, however, to separate the brain damage from the effects of fear. If you were trapped in a hospital where people were dissolving in their beds, you might try to escape, and if you were a bleeder and frightened, you might take off your clothes, and people might think you had gone mad.

5 “Some of the dying stripped off their clothes and ran out of the hospital, naked and bleeding, and wandered through the streets of the town, seeking their homes, not seeming to know what had happened or how they had gotten into this condition (Preston 21). “Some of the dying stripped off their clothes and ran out of the hospital, naked and bleeding, and wandered through the streets of the town, seeking their homes, not seeming to know what had happened or how they had gotten into this condition” (Preston 21). In a situation of disaster, acute fear can be a very dehumanizing force. Victims can lose touch with reality and behave in ways that can humiliate or harm them. When desperation sets in, a victim’s usual abilities can collapse, leaving him helpless. On 9/11, I saw people running from the burning towers, dehumanized by the shock and fear of the unknown, much like these victims of the Ebola virus.

6 The Sudan strain was more than twice as lethal as Marbug virus—its case-fatality rate was 50 percent. That is, fully half of the people who came down with it ended up dying, and quickly. This was the same kind of fatality rate as was seen with the black plague during the Middle Ages. If the Ebola Sudan virus had managed to spread out of central Africa, it might have entered Khartoum in a few weeks, penetrated Cairo a few weeks after that, and from there it would have hopped to Athens, New York, Paris, London, Singapore—it would have gone everywhere on the planet. Yet that never happened, and the crisis in Sudan passed away unnoticed by the world at large. What happened in Sudan could be compared to the secret detonation of an atomic bomb. If the human race came close to a major biological accident, we never knew it. Preston compares the disaster in Nzara to “the black plague during the Middle Ages” and “the secret detonation of an atomic bomb” (Preston 21).

7 Preston compares the disaster in Nzara to “the black plague during the Middle Ages” and “the secret detonation of an atomic bomb” Preston 21). In the situation of a plague or a nuclear attack, human life is reduced to bodies piled upon bodies. All human dignity and individual identity are lost. Survivors are deprived of hope and often their sanity. There is no counterforce that can stop the dehumanizing destruction of a plague or a nuclear holocaust. And the situation in Nzara is strikingly close to that of the Middle Ages, with little or no modern medical intervention.

8 Main Idea: _______________________________________________________ To begin with,___________________________ dehumanizes them EVIDENCE (Preston 20-21) In “Ebola River,” several forces dehumanize the Sudanese people. Second,_________________________________ dehumanizes them EVIDENCE: (Preston 21) Finally,__________________________________ dehumanizes them EVIDENCE: (Preston 20)

9 Main Idea: _______________________________________________________ To begin with,POVERTY dehumanizes them SUMMARY (Preston 20-21) In “Ebola River,” several forces dehumanize the Sudanese people. In “Ebola River,” several agents dehumanize the Sudanese people. To begin with, an impoverished environment contributes to their tragedy. Preston describes the conditions at the cotton factory where rats and bats lived in close proximity to factory workers. In the hospital, medical personal used contaminated needles. (Preston 20-21). INTERPRETATION!


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