With the mass hysteria that recent Ebola cases in the US have caused, African immigrants in the Bay Area say that they have experienced harassment from Americans.
“People are associating all of us with Ebola,” Adoubou Traore, program coordinator with the African Advocacy Network in San Francisco, told CBS San Francisco. “The feeling of knowing people are afraid of being with you, that is not a good feeling.”
This outbreak of Ebola has proven to be the the largest in global history, and has affected more than 17,000 people in eight countries, according to sfchronicle.com.
The stigma associated with the virus has gotten so bad that some immigrants have lost their jobs. One San Francisco resident, Thomas Muyunga, told thesfgate.com that he lost his job as a home health care worker when two of his clients kicked him out of their houses, saying that they were afraid he might be carrying the virus.
Others in the community say they’ve been harassed by acquaintances and their children have been bullied at school. African business owners have been experiencing extreme drops in their sales.
At a press conference on Wednesday at the San Francisco City Hall, immigrant public health officials conceded that the stigma associated with Ebola has, in fact, been detrimental to the African population in the community and recognized that it has cost that community jobs and peace of mind.
“We’re trying to stop the stigma from escalating,” said Clementine Ntshaykolo, who works with the African Advocacy Network.
Doctors and experts fear that this stigma and fear-mongering might be preventing finding a cure for the disease.
“What you fear as a physician is that there is so much stigma that it distracts from what should take place and what you can do if the right steps are taken,” said Dr. Sriram Shamasunder of UCSF. Shamasunder plans to go to Liberia, an area largely affected by the virus, in January to improve health care and prevent the spread of the virus.
San Francisco is not the only area where immigrants have been harassed because of their country’s connection with Ebola.
Two Senegalese brothers in New York City were beaten on a playground as their attackers screamed “Ebola! Get away from here!” The boys had to be taken to a nearby emergency room, according to reports from NBC News.
“I love this country, I love the people,” Muyunga said. “Maybe people are scared. But America, this is not you. Given what I know about this country and what I’ve seen, this is not the America I know.”