Thursday, October 16, 2014

Prompt 1: Lewontin and articles

Meaghan Duffy
Seminar in Composition
Dr. Adam Johns

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define Ebola as, “a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus strains.”  There are five known species of Ebola; only four strains have the capability to infect humans, the other can only infect primates.  While Ebola was first reported in 1976 in the Dominican Republic, its genetic origin is still very much unknown.  Scientifically speaking, the Ebola disease is being blamed on a perplexing viral strand attacking human cells, but it can reasonably be argued that unaccommodating genes, poor nutrition and dense populations are creating the epidemic.  

Ebola, since its introduction thirty-five years ago, has become a fast spreading deadly disease in various third world countries in Africa but was yet to spread to any developed countries till now, why?  Lewontin would argue that a lack of nutrition in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has allowed this virus to flourish and continue to favorably mutate and inject in large frequencies.  It is thought that because very little healthy foods with high nutritional value are entering individuals in poorer, less privileged countries daily, their immune systems are not strong enough to fight viral strains no matter how dilute or weak they may be.  Lewontin compares this phenomena to statistics in highly developed countries, which support that, “there have been complex social changes, resulting in increases in the real earnings of the great mass of people, reflected in part in their far better nutrition, that really lie at the basis of our increased longevity and our decreased death rate from infectious disease (Lewontin, 45).”

Recently, Ebola has been reported to have entered the United States infecting a handful of American individuals, two of which are nurses in Dallas, Texas, the ninth largest city in the U.S. with a population density of approximately 3,469.9 people per square mile.  Being in such close proximity to so many strangers in a single day allows Ebola or any other viral disease spread by blood or body fluids, contaminated objects, or infected animals to spread more easily and quickly.  In Biology and Ideology, Lewontin uses the example of tuberculosis to show how dense populations and unregulated industrial capitalism are very attributable causes of disease.  Lewontin describes, “Suppose we note that tuberculosis was a disease extremely common in the sweatshops and miserable factories of the nineteenth century, whereas tuberculosis rates were much lower among country people and in the upper classes.  Then we might be justified in claiming that the cause of tuberculosis is unregulated industrial capitalism, and if we did away with that system of social organization, we would not need to worry about the tubercle bacillus (Lewontin, 42).”  Although scientifically a bacteria or virus as seen under a microscope is the agent that brings upon such symptoms labeling a disease, working in such close proximity to possibly infected individuals day after day creates a large ratio of infected.  After Amber Vinson, the second Dallas nurse infected with Ebola, was photographed being transferred to CDC by airplane with a man who lacked a biohazard suit on his body, public hysteria broke out, people becoming scared for their own safety.  Although the man was found to be credible and experienced with such situations being a medical protocol supervisor, the possibility of him spreading the disease frightened the masses. Living in Dallas, nobody could begin to imagine how many individuals this man had come in contact with since the incident and furthermore how many people those people had come in contact with. 

Lewontin mentions that, “it is undoubtedly true that pollutants and industrial wastes are the immediate physiological causes of cancers, miners’ black lung, textile workers’ brown lung, and a host of other diseases (Lewontin, 45).”  It is a known fact that large cities are the most industrialized and production based areas of a state, containing the most factories that release harmful toxins into the atmosphere daily.  When pollutants enter humans through airways repeatedly in daily dosages, genes can become mutated forming dysfunctional proteins resulting in a variety of health problems. 

Lewontin, R.C. Biology as Ideology. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Print.

Molinet, Jason. "Man without Hazmat Suit during Ebola Patient Transfer Was a Supervisor: Airline." NY Daily News. N.p., 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

"About Ebola Virus Disease." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Oct. 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

"Ebola Virus Outbreak Spreading Fast: 8 Things You Need to Know." The Stir. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014

1 comment:

  1. You picked a good & current topic, obviously. I'm curious how many other people picked the same one (by chance, I'm reading yours first). You show a good understanding of Lewontin and a strong interest in the element of hysteria which surround Ebola.

    While I think your topic and your approach are both good, there's too much speculation here. If Ebola primarily shows up in Liberia, but there have only been a handful of cases in the U.S., isn't it a pretty big stretch to argue that capitalism is the cause of Ebola? You might actually be quite correct, but that argument would need to engage with *something* about the Liberian economy and how *it* generates Ebola. Or, from another angle, you might argue that the Ebola *hysteria* in the U.S. is a product of industrial capitalism - it's a way for the media to sell itself, almost totally apart from the actual disease.

    This part is the strongest and most focused: " Lewontin would argue that a lack of nutrition in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has allowed this virus to flourish and continue to favorably mutate and inject in large frequencies. " However, even that doesn't quite work without explicitly making the connections by doing a little research into the countries in question. You are almost arguing that the west African economy is the real source of Ebola (in the social sense), but you're not quite drawing the lines or doing all the appropriate research.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.