Tag Archives: WHO

Ebola psy-ops

THE Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is providing a natural experiment in fighting fake news. Occurring in a conflict zone, amid a controversial presidential election, the epidemic has proved to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories and political manipulation, which can hamper efforts to treat patients and fight the virus’s spread. Public health workers have mounted an unprecedented effort to counter misinformation, saying the success or failure of the Ebola response may pivot on who controls the narrative…

A member of UNICEF’s Ebola outreach team addresses the public in Beni, a city in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © UNICEF/UN0228985/NAFTALIN

This story first appeared in Science on 15 January 2019. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Naming diseases

TUNE into a discussion of how diseases get their names on BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth, hosted by Michael Rosen with linguist Laura Wright, and guests me and Prof Peter Piot, who co-discovered Ebola, was a pioneer in the science of AIDS, and now heads up the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine…

This programme first aired on 6 February 2018. To listen, click here.

How the 1918 flu pandemic revolutionised public health

NEARLY 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal wave the Spanish flu, and many things changed in the wake of it. One of the most profound revolutions took place in the domain of public health….

Vladimir Lenin pioneered socialised healthcare in Russia, in the wake of the Spanish flu

This article first appeared in Zócalo Public Square on 26 September 2017 and was reproduced the next day in the Smithsonian magazine. To continue reading, click here.

 

Who names diseases?

REMEMBER the Naples Soldier, the vicious flu pandemic that swept the globe almost 100 years ago, infecting one in three people and killing up to 50 million? You probably don’t, but you might remember the Spanish flu, the name by which that pandemic is better known. ‘Naples Soldier’ was what the Spanish called it, after a catchy tune that was being played in local music halls at the time. They knew the origins of the disaster lay beyond their borders and, understandably, refused to take the blame…

 

This essay first appeared in Aeon on 23 May 2017. To continue reading, click here.

“I’ve always thought I’d be good at naming diseases,” muses Dan Piepenbring in The Paris Review (24 May 2017). “The problem with most disease names is that they have all these scary words in them: flu, disorder, virus. That’s bad for business. If I were in charge, I’d name them after deodorants (Aqua Reef, Cool Burst, Sport) or Yankee Candles (Bahama Breeze, Vanilla Cupcake, Clean Cotton). But get this: It’s not just one person naming all the world’s diseases. It’s a whole committee of international bureaucracies, which explains why so many of our world’s most dangerous illnesses have such lousy titles.” Read Dan here:

I Can Name Your Disease, and Other News