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

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Hi Grant and Class,

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe. I am sending my best wishes and prayers to you all.

Here are my thoughts on one of Week 11’s readings:

Reading the introduction of Pricilla Wald’s book, Contagious, I was shocked by the parallels between her description of the SARS pandemic and the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking to my parents and grandpa, they are all in shock of the social and medical implications of COVID-19, saying that this is nothing like they have seen in their lives before. Yet as Wald describes, outbreak narratives “follows a formulaic plot” (2), with common, recurring conventions. Three conventions addressed that stood out to me were “superspreaders” (4), “medicalized nativism” (8) and the temporal understanding of outbreaks (8). I believe these conventions are easily translated into today’s pandemic, embodied throughout news reports. There are so many points in this introduction that piqued my interest and framed epidemiology in ways that I have never even thought about before. For instance, Wald mentions social and political climates can shape vocabulary and response. The example that Wald gives is the influence of the politics of the Cold War merged with virology advancements to create the nickname for the Epidemiological Investigation Service as “Medicine’s FBI” (25). It makes me wonder what influences our current political and social climate shaped conversation about COVID-19? How do differences in political organizations in different countries shape the spread and degree of consequences of an epidemic? How can we change the course of outbreak narratives to prevent stigmatization and prevent the exclusion of marginalized groups from treatment?

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