Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

How Media Coverage Affects Epidemics’ Spread

This article discusses media coverage of an epidemic and how misleading it can be, particularly in the case of cholera in Haiti. People expected the cholera epidemic to result from the 2010 earthquake, even though disasters actually don’t result in epidemics most of the time, and many other misconceptions also spread quickly along with the bacterium. These misconceptions often lead to more deaths than necessary. Ultimately, the spread of accurate information will help control epidemics like this both before and after they spread.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full version.


First Days of the Epidemic

Jonathan Katz, Beacon Reader
August 11, 2014

For many fixated on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or its faint echoes in the United States, the ready parallels have been from horror movies (especially thezombie apocalypse Americans like to joke, perhaps a little too insistently, is always around the corner). It’s not hard to see why. Thanks to the hefty infrastructure investments of previous generations, and more than a little luck, it’s been a long time since an infectious outbreak threatened social order in this country.

But terrifying, disruptive outbreaks happen in the real world all the time. Far from having to stumble our way through a supposedly unprecedented crisis, those tasked with getting out information can find plenty of examples of how the rapid spread of contagion and information have influenced each other in the recent past. One of the best examples is the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti.

The first word of the outbreak came over Haitian radio on October 20, 2010: patients were overwhelming a hospital in the coastal city of Saint-Marc. All had worryingly similar symptoms of severe diarrhea, fever, and vomiting; an unconfirmed number (41, the radio announcer estimated) were dead. Haiti’s health ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had sent teams from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to investigate.


Click HERE for the full article.

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