News Tip: Expert on Contagions Available to Discuss Ebola in U.S.

English professor Priscilla Waldhas extensively examined the intersection of myth and medicine

Officials have confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. 

• Quotes:"The story is familiar by now: about how a plane ride could turn a disease outbreak apocalyptic, about how certain places are hotbeds for disease, about who transmits it and how. Now it is no longer 'over there'; the line between 'us' and 'them' has been breached. And Americans are starting to panic," says Priscilla Wald, an English professor at Duke University who has extensively examined the intersection of myth and medicine as they relate to contagions.

"It’s not surprising that a case of Ebola has appeared in the U.S. We’re part of a global network. But why should Ebola, which is not easily transmitted, inspire so much more fear than, for example, the flu? Statistics on the relative danger of both do not seem to matter. That’s why we have to look to the way we communicate about these matters."

"We have to think about the associations that are triggered in the public imagination by the images that popular fiction and film, as well as the media, have made familiar. We have to think about how they inspire irrational panic, and about how they deflect attention from the larger source of the problem."

"The story that never gets told is about the relationship of the illness to global poverty and about how addressing the underlying problem is not only possible, but sensible. We can’t let a crisis mentality keep us from thinking rationally."

• Bio: Priscilla Wald is an English professor at Duke University and author of “Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative.” 

She specializes in literature, law, science and medicine and has extensively examined the intersection of myth and medicine as they relate to contagions. 

http://english.duke.edu/people?subpage=profile&Gurl=/aas/English&Uil=pwald

• For additional comment, contact Wald at: pwald@duke.edu

Archive video interview: http://www.cctv-america.com/2014/08/04/liberia-works-to-contain-ebola-as... (Wald appears in second of three videos on this page)