That plague they say?

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Thursday, February 27, 2014


WHEN I logged on to Facebook last Monday, I saw posts of friends praying for Cebu to be spared from a plague that has hit the Luzon province of Pangasinan and asking their friends to repent because a prophecy was now being fulfilled.

The social media hysteria, if one might call it, stemmed from a video clip of a tv news report of a flesh-eating skin disease that was afflicting two persons in Pangasinan. The news report of a large network showed skin beating eaten away and stated that doctors could not pinpoint why.

At the end of this news report, the anchor posed a question: Was what was happening in Pangasinan a fulfillment of a prophecy?

The earthquake and the super typhoon that hit Bohol and Cebu last year were said to be part of the prophecy and that a skin plague was next to strike Cebu. I am somewhat lost on who made the prophecy. Was it some Indian guy on television or some local guy
who spoke at a prayer gathering in Pasay City?

In the sharing of the video on Facebook, the flesh-eating disease was feared to also strike in Cebu anytime soon. Without credentials and informed sources to prop their claims, some FB friends posted that the disease was air-borne and cautioned everyone from going to Luzon or entering Cebu lest they become carriers of the bacteria.

From the panicky posts, it was clear that misinformation or half-information triggered the scare. "Feeling scared" was a common appendage to status posts about the flesh-eating skin disease and the fulfillment of a doomsday prophecy.

Friends who were skeptical of the TV news report called for sobriety in their status. Just as well.

The next day, someone's disclaimer was being shared as well as an advisory from the Department of Health shedding light on the flesh-eating skin disease in Pangasinan.

The disclaimer came from someone who had seen and been with one of the afflicted. The afflicted was a beneficiary of the foundation of a rival TV network and the network aired her story last year.

The patient's skin disease had worsened because her previous doctor gave her anti-leprosy medicines that counter-reacted to her skin. "It is not contagious because our team had a close contact with her."

The DOH issued an advisory: "There is no flesh-eating skin disease in the Philippines.

It's not true that patients were decaying due to a mysterious disease in Pangasinan. A patient in Santa Barbara had leprosy and developed an adverse reaction to the drugs.

Meanwhile, a patient in Villasis had psoriasis, a chronic skin disease of red patches and white scales."

People from Pangasinan are incensed by the TV news report. They find it unfair that for two isolated cases of skin afflictions, which happened in two separate towns, the entire province is cast in scabby light. There is no plague in Pangasinan.

The TV network sensationalized a story that could otherwise have been treated with sobriety and sympathy. The thing is, people reacted to it on slanted information.

On the prophecy, well, a person knowledgeable about science, statistics and current events and with common sense can spew out predictions. Little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing.

On a sober note, one guy advised: "Instead of causing panic because of the fulfillment of a certain prophecy, why don't we ask ourselves on how we can help (the girl afflicted with the skin disease) and her family?"

So, if you feel itchy and your skin starts to flake, it just might be you need a body scrub. You're just "feeling meh."

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 28, 2014.

Opinion

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