Paper Title
NEWS BATTERING: A CONTENT ANALYTICAL STUDY OF SUN NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE OUTBREAK IN THE WEST AFRICAN SUB-REGION (July – October, 2014)
Author
Sam Okechukwu Omeje
Section
Arts, Language, and Communication
Abstract

This textual analysis of the Sun newspaper coverage of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa revealed how myths and stereotypes combined to blame an American lawyer, Patrick Sawyer, for his own death. This followed an outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the West African sub-region in 2013. The disease spread to Nigeria in 2014. The Ebola deadly disease recorded 7000 cases and claimed over 5000 deaths in the sub-region. It is for this reason that this paper investigated the Sun Newspaper coverage of outbreak in West Africa. A content analytical study was adopted and a total of 123 editions of Sun newspaper formed the population. Out of this, 94 copies from July to October, 2014, formed the sample size. The paper covered 234 stories on Ebola Virus Disease through news, features, editorials, pictures and cartoons. The theoretical framework involved agenda setting and social responsibility theories. The findings showed that Sun newspaper displayed significant news battering in its coverage of the deadly disease in West Africa. It also provided the news prominence, accuracy and magnitude of issues related to the disease on its front and inside pages. It was also found, that the hypotheses employed and tested in this direction received both statistical and empirical support. The paper finally recommended among others, that surveillance for infectious disease outbreak and response must be given serious attention in West Africa and other nations if we must remain a step ahead of any pandemic.

Keywords
Ebola virus, outbreak, coverage, myths, stereotypes

Introduction

 

Background

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), commonly known as “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever” (EHF), is a disease of humans and some other primates caused by Ebola virus. The fruit bats, grasscutters, wild rabbits, and poor sanitary environments are believed to be the major carriers of the virus. 

The virus was first identified as a possible new “strain” of mar bug virus in 1976. The virus got its name from the Ebola River in the democratic Republic of Congo where an outbreak of the disease occurred in 1976. The Ebola virus is an ongoing endemic disease in the West African sub-region with a mortality rate of about 70%. The first outbreak of Ebola virus occurred in Congo Republic in 1976, but the most recent outbreak had its roots in Guinea in December 2013. It then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively. An insignificant number of twenty cases occurred in Nigeria and another in Senegal the same year. In 2014, similar cases of the virus were reported in Mali and significant cases in the United States and Spain. As at 22nd December, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a total of 19,374 suspected cases of the virus with 7,533 deaths were recorded globally. However, the WHO believes that this number substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak.

            In August 2015, WHO reported that 10% of Ebola-related deaths were health-care workers, and by the end of the same month, it confirmed that the loss of so many health workers was making it difficult for them to provide sufficient foreign medical workers to assist. In September, WHO estimated that the capacity of affected countries for capacity for treating Ebola patients was insufficient by the bed-space-equivalent of 2,122. By the end of October 2015, many of the hospitals in the affected areas had become dysfunctional or totally closed prompting some health experts to declare that their inability to provide medical needs may have caused “an additional death rate”  likely to exceed the outbreak itself.

            However, Nigeria had her first ever Ebola experience on 20th July, 2014, when an American lawyer, Patrick Sawyer, flew from Liberia to Nigeria defying the doctor’s instruction not to travel. On Sawyer’s arrival in Lagos from Monrovia, he slumped. Unfortunately, Sawyer died four days later. In reaction, the Nigerian government traced all persons that made contact with Sawyer for signs of infection. Also, the nation quickly increased her surveillance at all entry points.

            One of the nurses who attended to Sawyer died on 6th August, 2014, and the doctor who treated him also died on 19th August. However, by October 2014, the Nigerian Ebola outbreak was finally and effectively contained. By 20th October, 2014 Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the WHO following two incubation periods set up without any further case. It was indeed a battle that was miraculously won. The media in Nigeria (print and electronic) had successfully battered the story of the Ebola Virus disaster.

 

Problem

This paper examines the extent to which Sun Newspaper covered and discharged the campaigns that crushed the Ebola virus in West Africa. Unfortunately, in developing nations like Nigeria, most of the data sources are either not available or not usually in electronic form. They are commonly kept manually in notebooks with attendant inconsistencies due to human error. This is a handicap for most Third world nations which may want to join the trend in using automated data sources for syndromic surveillance.

 

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