Laying Blame

Just when you thought you’d seen every take on H1N1 in the media, I found a great article this morning in the New York Times on assigning blame for epidemics. If you’re into history, it’s an excellent look at the blame assigned to who/what started epidemics such as the Black Death and the Spanish flu.

The New York Times writer, Donald G. McNeil, Jr. investigates the persecution of Jews, who were thought to be responsible for the Black Death. “More than 200 communities were wiped out,” states McNeil.

But Mongke Khan, grandson of Genghis may have played a part as did the Indian or Egyptian sailors who may have transferred the black rat out of India. Or, it may have been a “misalignment of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.”

The article shares about how the World Health Organization is trying desperately not to assign a name that reflects a country or animal. FYI – the official new name is “Pandemic (H1N1) 2009.

I like history so I found the article an interesting take on epidemics. But what really caught my eye was this:

“In May, a Mexican soccer player who said he was called a “leper” by a Chilean opponent spat on his tormentor; Chilean news media accused him of germ warfare. In June, Argentines stoned Chilean buses, saying they were importing disease. When Argentina’s caseload soared, European countries warned their citizens against visiting it.”

I remember when Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 first started being mentioned in the news that there were those who advised closing American borders to Mexicans. I worry about how the upswing in cases that we are being told will happen will affect us not only as a nation but as a world community.

“‘When disease strikes and humans suffer,’ said Dr. Luse-anne Pirofski, chief of infectious diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an expert on the history of epidemics, ‘the need to understand why is very powerful. And, unfortunately, identification of a scapegoat is sometimes inevitable.'”

Case in point – I’ve shared with several nurses, nursing students and friends about how Milwaukee, WI has a huge caseload of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 cases, more than any other city in the U.S. and quite a few states. The first statement out of everyone’s mouth has been, “Do they have a large ethnic population?”

For the record, I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know.

We need to be careful, watchful, patient, wise, and most of all, objective.

You can read the article, “Finding a Scapegoat When Epidemics Strike” at this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/health/01plague.html?pagewanted=2&th&emc=th

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