By Elyse CarmosinoSTAFF WRITER
The fear surrounding the Ebola virus has spiraled as a result of media frenzy over the disease.
In the Cultural Center on Wednesday, Nov. 5, Hofstra’s School of Health Sciences and Human Services held a lecture on Ebola presented by Dr. Tefera Gezmu. This lecture was the first in a four-part series the University will hold in an attempt to better educate students on the current epidemic.
A professor at the State University of New Jersey, Gezmu holds a doctorate of philosophy in epidemiology and a master’s degree in public health. He spoke to a packed room about the disease that has had the world in an uproar since news of the outbreak first made headlines earlier this summer.
In his lecture, Gezmu addressed the ways in which poverty and a lack of education and resources have contributed to the fast spread of the disease in West Africa. He showed pictures of dirty makeshift healthcare centers in run-down school buildings and spoke of how little the most affected areas knew of the disease they were losing so many to. He also detailed how the culture and religious beliefs of poorer areas prevented them from burying their dead in ways that would help stop further spreading.
Gezmu then addressed the many rumors and misconceptions that have arisen since the start of the epidemic, including the belief that Ebola is a highly dangerous disease that can be contracted simply by coming in contact with someone who has been affected.
He also addressed the role fear has played in media coverage and the way the public has responded.
“The trouble is not the message but the messenger. What do we show? We show them everything they are afraid of. Is Ebola a contagious disease? No. Ebola does not transmit through the air. However, fear does,” Gezmu said.
Students’ reactions to Gezmu’s talk were overall positive. Junior Britney Nathan found the talk to be informative and compelling.
“I liked that he talked about part of the way you can combat the disease is to pay attention to the culture around the disease,” Nathan said.
Zichen Liu, a member of Hofstra’s Society of Public Health Advocates, also known as SOPHA, said the talk even cleared up some his own misconceptions.
“I thought [Ebola] was a very serious disease because of the high death rate, but now I know it’s just transmitted by fluids. There are ways you can easily prevent it,” Liu said.
Senior Ari Richman particularly enjoyed hearing from someone with extensive knowledge on the topic.
“It’s nice to hear from someone who has knowledge on [Ebola], because we only hear it through the media, which is one-sided, so hearing from a different vantage point changes your perspective,” Richman said.
Gezmu said he believes the disease will eventually wash itself out, and left students with an emphasis on the fear that has surrounded the discussion of Ebola.
“I’m glad I’ve been a fire starter in starting this conversation,” he said. “Fear should not cripple us the way it has.”