Reply To: Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative

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cpelay
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Priscilla Wald takes a unique approach to analyze outbreaks and infections in the modern world. In the introduction of her book Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, Wald defines the term outbreak narrative as the story of disease outbreaks as chronicled by mainstream media and scientific publications. She describes the outbreak narrative as predictable “following a formulaic plot that begins with the identification of an emerging infection, includes a discussion of global networks throughout which it travels, and chronicles the epidemiological work that ends with its containment” (2). Wald uses the SARS outbreak of 2003 as a case study to illustrate the outbreak narrative in reality. As she describes SARS and how it unfolds as an outbreak narrative I could not ignore the striking similarities to the current coronavirus outbreak. Wald’s explanation of the term “medicalized nativism” was the most impressionable for me. She defines medicalized nativism as a social attitude that “implies the almost superstitious belief that national borders can afford protection against communicable diseases” (8). During this current outbreak, I have definitely seen a surge in these kinds of social attitudes as well as the kind of xenophobic rhetoric that is often spearheaded by current political powers. I hope that instead of playing the “blame game” we as a society can instead take this as an opportunity to reevaluate our relationships with community organizations, improve health care infrastructure, and prioritize social responsibility.

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