Online campaign launched in US against Ebola stigma

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A Liberian-American television host has launched an online campaign in the US to counter the stigma over Ebola.

Shoana Solomon, a US resident originally from Liberia, has taken to social media sites Facebook and Twitter to call for treating Africans living in America as normal, and not to assume they carry Ebola because of their ethnicity.

Solomon, a photographer and TV presenter, said she launched her campaign in the wake of taunts her daughter had received at her US school.

“You’re from Liberia, so you have a disease,” Solomon’s nine-year-old daughter said she was told by her classmates.

“The day after that happened to my daughter, I made a Facebook post,” Solomon told the Guardian. “I said, oh my goodness, my daughter’s being stigmatised. I said: Get ready”.

Solomon said her daughter was not the only member of her family to be singled out due to the hysteria surrounding Ebola in the US. Her niece, she said, has suffered similar stigma.

“[She] was in school and sneezed a couple of times. They took her temperature and placed her alone in a room”.

Solomon said her sister has been asked to temporarily remove the niece from school, although her daughter has never traveled to Liberia and has no contact with anyone returning from the West African nation over the past two years.

Despite the problems her family has faced, Solomon has not called into question America’s genuine concerns over the deadly virus.

“Ebola is a serious thing. I don’t want to minimise that. But there has to be some sensitivity. We have been through so much as a country — first our 14-year civil war and now Ebola — that the stigmatisation is just too much,” she said.

US President Barack Obama has urged Americans not to over-hype the threat presented by Ebola “as it is actually a difficult disease to catch”.

“You cannot get it from just riding on a plane or a bus. The only way that a person can contract the disease is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of somebody who is already showing symptoms,” Obama said.