SARS and illness narratives: an examination of an epidemic

Lee, Jon D. (2008) SARS and illness narratives: an examination of an epidemic. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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One of the largest recent disease outbreaks began in November of 2002, when the first cases of a disease that would soon be known as SARS began spreading in China. Since then, the SARS coronavirus has achieved infamy seldom seen among diseases, sweeping through media and Internet sources to create a panic that left thousands of people halfway around the world wearing surgical masks in attempts to protect themselves from perceived harm. -- The goal of this dissertation is to examine and understand the narratives that people told about the SARS outbreak-the rumors, gossip, legends, jokes, and other forms of oral communication. Examining these narratives will provide insights into why people believe the things they do about diseases, and why narratives both shape and are shaped by disease. -- A key concept included in this examination involves the reasons behind the exaggerated, and in many cases disproportionate reactions exhibited by the public. Tied up in these reactions were issues of race and ethnicity, personal and familial protection, and fear, all of which were directly influenced by oral narratives, as well as by information gathered from media sources. Ultimately, sources such as newspapers and news broadcasts can be blamed for the larger part of the hysteria that surrounded the outbreak. But oral narratives were also culpable, and so a second thrust of this work will be to examine what steps can be taken to counteract, or possibly preempt these sources of information. -- Ultimately, it is the goal of this work to demonstrate that the types of narratives that circulated during the SARS outbreak closely resembled narratives associated with other diseases, thereby establishing a template or typology of disease narratives. The existence of such a typology would mean that medical and health personnel, responding to future disease outbreaks, would be able to better predict the forms of narrative that would arise, and would thus be better able to respond to the panic and xenophobia that so often accompany epidemics.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 8944
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 297-333)
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: SARS (Disease)--Epidemics--Personal narratives; SARS (Disease)--Epidemics--Psychological aspects; SARS (Disease)--Epidemics--Social aspects

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