Just Because it Sounds Better …

I first noticed an alarming trend a few years ago. I was introduced to several international families who were from countries I’d never heard of. I’m part of that group who definitely had geography in elementary school. I know I learned the countries of the world. So where were these people coming from? Turns out several countries had been renamed during the time it took for me to graduate from college, have kids, and raise them to an age that brought me into contact with a lot of new families. I chalked it up to a “Who Knew” moment and bought myself an atlas of the world. 

Now we are concerned about Ebola. It certainly sounds frightening, but nowhere near as bad as if it were something like, say, hemorrhagic fever. As it happens, it actually is just as bad because it actually is hemorrhagic fever. It’s just got a new name. In this case, it’s a name that definitely doesn’t sound as bad. They’ve renamed emphysema, too. The reason you won’t find it in the alphabetical list of conditions on the CDC site is not because it’s been eradicated. It’s because it’s now one possibility in a condition known as COPD. You won’t find information about it unless you know to look under COPD. It’s also the reason, by the way, that you never knew anyone with COPD when you were a kid.

I bring all of this to your attention because it’s not that the horrible things that used to happen to people are no longer happening. We simply no longer hear about them because they now are referred to in new ways, many of which simply don’t sound as threatening as the old. One reason for this is that today we have better tools available for a more concise diagnosis and treatment. Another  is that for illnesses, especially those that are now chronic illnesses rather than causes of untimely death, these new names often lead to a greater sense of well being in those living with the illness.

In the case of Ebola, what it’s called is obviously not the most pressing issue. The true focus should and must be on treatment alternatives. It’s just interesting to note that, at a time when information is a click away, alarming information is being presented as gently as possible.


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