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Editorial: Global outbreaks should be an issue before they affect us

Nobody likes being sick. Noticing that a friend is coughing is reason enough to ostracize them and cover yourself in hand sanitizer. Diseases are aptly noticed on campus, whether it’s our everyday campus plague which hits every semester or larger flare ups that enter the United States. If a virus hits the U.S., news outlets explode with coverage: noting symptoms, warning signs and projected spread of the virus. We pull together as a nation to collectively worry and push for a cure. This process is good; the underlying motive to worry only when it gets to us is an isolating and indifferent approach to global interaction.

Zika virus is our most recent global health emergency. It emerged in Brazil in September of last year when doctors noticed unusual upticks in congenital birth defects. It took nearly six months for the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global public health emergency on Feb. 2, 2016. Around that same time, a case of Zika virus was confirmed in a man residing in Dallas, Texas. Once established in our country, research and funding have become high priorities. A projected $1.8 billion has been estimated for research costs toward vaccinations.

The inclination to worry about something when it becomes a problem is prevalent to most venues of life, from cramming for exams to widespread diseases. However, making something an issue only once it directly affects us is far from empathy and compassion. We reacted to the Ebola virus in the same manner. Once that virus was “solved” for us, we moved on with our lives. Do a quick search for Ebola, and results will tell you it is almost gone. In U.S. media, scarcely a word can be heard. The problem is geographically beyond us, so it no longer exists in our media. However, WHO will continue to work on preventative measures against the virus into mid-2016.

How we currently approach outbreaks, we miss the crucial beginning and ending stages of solving the issue. There is an understandable gap of reaction while an outbreak is defined and properly noticed which keeps us from reacting immediately. But those months we hold back while foreign countries are suffering are detrimental to global relations and the overall impact of a virus. Problems exist outside of our immediate vicinity, even if we don’t like to think about them. It would be far better overall for us to involve ourselves before an outbreak spreads and the subsequent mad dash ensues.

Our American-centric standpoint shuts our entire country into a bubble and mutes issues until they potentially cause a problem for us. Once it touches our bubble, it matters. We rally and “defeat” the threat. The scope for that defeat only extends to our borders. Anything beyond once again goes quiet. There is nothing inherently wrong with worrying, especially about our country’s safety. It is the shutdown of response to tragedies in other places of the world which brings up red flags. We cannot decide something is over just because it’s not bothering us anymore.

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