Epidemics in Reality and Fictionally

By definition, an epidemic as a noun is “an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time : an outbreak of epidemic disease” (Merriam-Webster). As an adjective, the word renders a different meaning, focusing on the aspect widespread growth. In this case, when referring to an epidemic, I am using it in its noun form; an event of disease outbreak that has occurred or is to take place. Building off of my last post, I aim to connect a real-life epidemic that has occurred to the hypothetical questions I had posed. In 2014, an Ebola epidemic broke out rapidly in Africa, labelled as the West African Epidemic (CDC, 2019). Within this epidemic, there were instances where infected individuals who were not kept in isolation had traveled elsewhere, risking further spread of the epidemic. In this way, this specific epidemic corresponds to my questioning of the parts to a whole in an epidemic, as seen in Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler.

When the West African Epidemic occurred in 2014, an infected person from Guinea traveled to Mali, spreading the illness (CDC, 2019). Luckily, the virus was mostly contained, with only 8 reported cases and 6 deaths (CDC, 2019). The only way this potential further spreading of the epidemic was maintained was through the isolation and close monitoring of infected persons in Mali. Had the individuals been released and had traveled as did the original infector, the epidemic would have taken over more countries. In this instance, the removal of those persons’ freedoms in order to contain the illness may be seen as beneficiary to the whole. For the persons themselves, remaining in isolation waiting upon their possible death, may have been torturous. Similarly to those in Clay’s Ark, those who were originally infected and demanded isolation upon themselves with contained spreading of the disease, could be possibly seen as partially analogous to the CDC. In the text, Meda, who is one of those who started the enclave explains to Blake, a newly infected individual, “If you escaped now and managed to reach other people, you’d eventually give them the disease. You’d spread it to everyone you could reach…” (Butler, 489). In this sense, those who originally formed the enclave want to overall contain the disease to a certain area to prevent an epidemic.

Then, on the other hand, those newly infected by the enclave who demanded freedom, such as Blake, could be seen as those who traveled while infected. Although , I must point out, those who traveled may have not had malicious intent as they most likely were unaware that they even carried the infection. However, they still practiced freedom while infected with the illness, and that is where my connection between the two lays. The characters newly infected in Clay’s Ark were also compelled to experience freedom as they were in denial that they were truly infected before their symptoms started. Blake’s daughter, Rane, tells an enclave member, “…Isn’t it time to break the chain? You and I could get away together. We could get help,” and he answered, “…We’re infectious for as much as two weeks before we start to show symptoms…” (Butler, 535). In this sense, a parallel can be drawn between those who traveled without knowing they were infected with Ebola and characters of Clay’s Ark who wished to escape as they did not think they were infected either.

As this post bounces off a previous post of mine, I further the investigation between today’s epidemics and that of which was presented in our course reading of Clay’s Ark. The sacrifice of freedom done so by those infected with Ebola during the time of outbreak is what enabled the illness to be contained and for the epidemic to cease its spread. In this real-life case, it can be seen that the isolation of few was deemed necessary to benefit the greater good, by stopping the risk of infection. Stemming off of my previous post, I deepen the questions I posed by asking readers to now consider this present-day scenario with that to the fictional proposition of an epidemic in Clay’s Ark.

Personally, my perception of the comparison between sacrifice of individuals’ freedoms for the protection of the greater good has became clearer with the analysis of an epidemic in reality that affected our world. Upon my reading of our class’ text Clay’s Ark, I went back and forth between where to place my sympathy. It oscillated between sympathizing for those trying to escape and obtain their previous freedom and my understanding of those who started the enclave wanting to contain the organism. A portion of me felt for the escapees as they struggled with their forced isolation. However, at the same time, in the back of my mind I felt for those trying to save the greater whole, regardless of the freedoms being sacrificed by the individuals. By analyzing this epidemic case of Ebola in 2014, I find that I myself sympathizes more with those trying to isolate individuals to protect the rest of the population. I wonder if this does the same for those who read this in the sense of a change in perspective or solidification of a view already conceived.

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