Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, which came to doctors’ attention in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, now has 75,000 reported cases and has claimed over 2,000 lives in China. The virus has spread outside of China, with cases reported in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany and the UK. There have been six reported deaths as a result of the illness outside of China – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, France and the Philippines.


Understandably, fear is prevalent at the moment. We cannot help but recall previous outbreaks such as bird flu in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. In the midst of this recent outbreak, we might find ourselves more germaphobic than usual: flinching when a stranger in the street sneezes or keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer on your person at all times. While paying extra attention to hygiene is normal and even healthy, there is an insidious side to this newfound germaphobia. Xenophobia has often been a symptom of global outbreaks of infectious disease, and the coronavirus is no exception. 


There have been a plethora of reports of racism against people of Chinese origin since the coronavirus has entered the public radar. Even those who haven’t been to China for many years or are of a different Asian ethnicity entirely, have been targeted by the public and press alike. In France, a local newspaper came under fire after it published incredibly racist headlines such as “Alerte Jaune” (“Yellow Alert”) and “Le Peril Jaune?” (“Yellow Peril?”). French Asians took to Twitter using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus in response to these headlines, as well as sharing racist interactions they had experienced in public. 


In the UK, many people of Asian backgrounds have spoken out about their experiences. A food writer from Burma posted photos on the Tube of people standing rather than sitting next to her, and Chinese-born Dr. Zhou recounted an experience he had in an elevator in Gatwick airport where a woman muttered to her husband, “they should wear their masks.” Dr. Zhou claimed that the woman clearly thought he was “fresh off the boat” in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been to China in two years, and therefore posed just as much of a risk as any white British person. As well as this, four separate racist incidents relating to the coronavirus have been reported to police in Yorkshire, where there have been two reported cases of the virus. Both the Chinese ambassador to the UK and the Health Secretary Matt Hannock have spoken out against such reactionary and hateful attitudes, Hannock saying, “this is not about one part of the world.”


Hostility towards Asian communities across the pond is just as, if not even more, harsh. Even usually reputable sources have been guilty of propagating an anti-Asian sentiment. In an Instagram post which was intended to inform students about common reactions to the threat of outbreak, the University of California Berkeley listed ‘xenophobia’ as one possible reaction. The post was quickly deleted and an apology was issued, but this did not subdue those who felt outrage at the university’s normalisation of the showing of animosity towards people based purely on their ethnic background. 


A doctor by the name of Eric Ding added fuel to the fire when he shared an unpublished paper about the coronavirus and its R0 which is supposed to measure the virus’s level of contagiousness. Although he deleted this particular tweet and the subsequent tweets pertaining to it, it managed to drum up a significant amount of hysteria surrounding the virus. A thread remains on his Twitter, however, and although he prefaced this series of tweets by saying, “First, I don’t like unsupported conspiracy theories, but [the origin of the coronavirus] is a lingering question…seafood market isn’t whole story”, the discussion in the following tweets belongs more in the camp of inflammation than information, at one point saying, “…I am absolutely not saying it’s bioengineering … I’m simply saying scientists need to do more research.” 


We have seen recently that xenophobia spurred on by the virus is not the only factor rendering the lives of Asian people in the States difficult; you will recall Trump’s restriction on Chinese immigrants and allegations of Chinese spies in the US. The circulation of xenophobic ideas masked as “information” about the virus only serves to reinforce already existing rhetoric villifying Chinese people. It’s important to note that this is not an isolated occurrence of this type of rhetoric; associations between Chinese people and uncleanliness have long been part of Western discourse, specifically in the US, and most often centred around Chinese food and eating habits. 


This is particularly relevant considering Wuhan’s food markets have been cited as the source of the virus. The food sold at these markets don’t always fit into Western norms, so there is often a tendency to view it as strange or disgusting. A perfect example of this is the ordeal experienced by Wang Mengyun, a Chinese vlogger who posted a video of herself enjoying fruit bat soup. This video was posted three years ago, but amidst coronavirus madness it resurfaced and was falsely claimed to have been shot in a “Wuhan restaurant”. In spite of the fact that the video was filmed in Palau long before the outbreak of the virus, the video caused fury and disgust online. It was described as “gruesome” and “revolting” by media outlets and Wang even received death threats. The backlash was so severe that she was forced to issue an apology for the video. Although China is thought to have issues around food regulation, this is a governmental concern and hardly the fault of individuals who choose to enjoy traditional menus – it does not justify the demonisation of Chinese people as a result of cultural ignorance. 


This attitude fits into a much larger discourse which associates foreigners with disease, a typical case of cultural “othering”. Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discusses the connection between immigrants and illness: “People with a different national, ethnic or religious background have historically been accused of spreading germs regardless of what the science may say.” This can be seen in public discourse for as long as immigrants have been in the US. The New York Daily Tribunal was circulating similar ideas in 1854, writing that Chinese people were “uncivilised, unclean, filthy beyond all conception.” We like to think we have come a long way in accepting and embracing different cultures, but when xenophobia is perpetuated by popular media outlets and reputable sources, it is important to scratch beneath the surface – usually what seems like a simple tasteless comment is in fact contributing to a larger narrative that stigmatises people of certain cultural backgrounds. 


This was seen even more recently during the large-scale migration into New York in the 1920s, during which racial segregation in the city was justified by links that were falsely made between certain ethnic groups and germs. It was also evident during the HIV epidemic in the 80s, when Haitian people were discriminated against;and during the SARS outbreak of 2003, which saw the persecution of people of Asian ethnicity. 


In times of public emergency, it is far easier to assign blame than to think rationally. However, it is important not to let a scaremongering narrative surround an outbreak. Priscilla Wald warns against this in her book Culture, Carriers and the Outbreak Narrative. She explains that a sensationalist narrative can “influence how scientists and the lay public understand the nature and consequences of infection, how they imagine the threat.” 


During outbreaks, it is in everyone’s best interest to remain calm and compassionate. Not only does this facilitate the spread of helpful information, but ensures that we do not create another layer of xenophobic rhetoric which further marginalises certain groups in society during a period when, of all times, we must stand together. 




Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio



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Do you know how much sugar is too much?

Do you know how much sugar is too much?

Do you know how much sugar is enough for your daily diet? According to the guidelines given by Diabetes Ireland on sugar consumption by children and adults, no more than 10 percent of a person’s energy intake (calories) should come from free sugar. An individual requires 1,500 – 2,000 calories per day which is equal to 10-14 teaspoons of sugar.

How much sugar does an average adult need?
According to the American Heart Association, six teaspoons of sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men is enough. However, we easily cross these limits of sugar consumption to around 11 teaspoons and are unaware. Many processed food like cakes, cookies or donuts contain high level of sugar as well as calories.

Is sugar addictive?
Sugar creates the same impact on the brain’s Mesolimbic Dopamine System as drugs such as nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines. Sugar causes changes in people’s brain similar those associated with drug addiction.

How can I cut sugar from my diet?
Avoid added sugar to optimise your health. Replace your sugar cravings with fruits rather than processed food. Beware of the amount of calories you are consuming daily. Processed food is loaded with sugar, so read the content level on processed food packs before you purchase.

Understanding natural sugar and added sugar.
Natural sugar is different from added sugar, it can be easily found in fruits and vegetables they are healthier and more preferable for your daily diet than added sugar. However, added sugar comes from regular table sugar or high fructose corn syrup usually used in processed food.

Photo by Jennie Brown on Unsplash


How to care for your animals

How to care for your animals

Your pet will be much more affected by hot summers than you. According to Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the heat tolerance level of animals is less than human thus hot weather can pose a threat to pets. There are some precautions recommended by various Societies for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals across the world.

Dogs and Cats
Cats as well as dogs need plenty of water throughout the day to beat the heat. It is important to make sure their water bowl is filled all the time. Unlike dogs, cats are conscious about their neatness and necessity. They select cool places, so ensure you provide them with cozy and cool shelters. Even if your dog loves traveling in the car, don’t leave your dog inside, even with the windows open. Temperature inside the car is comparatively more than outside and the humidity inside the car turns into a sauna.

Always take you dog for a walk either in the morning or in the evening, make sure it’s cool outside. Don’t forget to keep an eye for insects. Make sure your cats or dogs are not providing shelter to fleas and ticks. Feel free to trim their hair.

Rabbits and other small furriers
Rabbits are very sensitive to heat. Make sure they are living in a cool place and have access to water and food. The same applies to hamsters, guinea pigs and ferrets. Make sure they are away from toxic chemicals.

Horses, ponies and foals are huge, they may not be able to reach to the bottom of a shallowly filled trough. Check the buckets and troughs regularly, provide them with ample amount of clean water. Ride your horse early in the morning or late in the evening, when the temperature is cool. After riding, loosen girths or belly bands, allow your horse to relax and provide it water. Allow them to take rest in a shaded place.

Birds and fishes
Do not leave bird cages or fish tanks on windowsills, move them into the shade. Regularly change the water in fish tanks, to avoid the growth of algae. Fish ponds should be kept clean from rubbish. Clean the cages of birds on regular basis to avoid infection, provide them with food and clean the spoiled leftover.

Know the symptoms of overheating.
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12th Annual Aware Christmas Run

12th Annual Aware Christmas Run

Phoenix Park: Saturday 9th December 2017


Over 2,000 runners to take part in 5K and 10K runs

Conor Walsh has set himself a challenge to pull 399 pounds around the 5K route – one pound to represent each person who died by suicide in 2016. Participants can opt to lighten Conor’s load and carry one pound of weight by emailing him directly at conorschristmassleigh@gmail.com *based on provisional figures released by the HSE

Dublin, Ireland. Wednesday 8th November, 2017: With one month to go, Aware is urging people to register today for the 12th annual Aware Christmas Run which will take place in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on Saturday, 9th December 2017.  The Christmas Run is Aware’s flagship fundraising event, seeing over 2,000 people take part and raising more than €60,000 for the organisation’s nationwide support, education and information services.

Online registration is now available at aware.ie/events for both 5K and 10K options at a cost of €25 per person. The race is run under AAI rules and chip timing applies. Festive attire is encouraged and all are welcome from walkers to runners!

Gerry O’Brien, Head of Fundraising at Aware said: “The Aware Christmas Run offers the perfect excuse to get friends, family and colleagues together to do something fun, festive and healthy, while helping ensure that Aware continues to make a real difference in the lives of others throughout the year. As a result of this and other fundraising efforts, Aware is able to provide support services for individuals and families impacted by depression or bipolar disorder, as well as offering free mental health education programmes for adults and senior cycle students.”

O’Brien continued: “We really look forward to the Christmas Run each year – the atmosphere on the day is fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit and do something ‘feel-good’ for yourself in the midst of all the Christmas preparations.”


The Aware Christmas Run is proudly sponsored by Cadbury. Speaking about Cadbury’s involvement, Tricia Burke, Senior Brand Manager with Cadbury Ireland, said: “The Aware Christmas Run is one of the many great Aware initiatives that Cadbury supports every year – and we are delighted to be involved again this year. It raises much needed funding for their invaluable services and highlights the importance of staying active to aid positive mental health. It also gives those who have been affected by mental health issues an opportunity to come together and share their experiences. We always encourage the Cadbury team to sign up and get involved, and I am delighted to say that the numbers will be as great as ever this year.”

The Aware Christmas Run is kindly supported by official media partners The Irish Independent and Dublin’s 98FM.

Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

What? The MS Readathon takes place annually, with more than 10,000 young readers in schools around the country taking part last year, reading 87,000 books in total and raising funds for people with Multiple Sclerosis in their community.

Who? MS Ireland is the national organisation providing information, vital services and support to the MS community. Multiple Sclerosis, meaning ‘many scars’, is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Ireland. MS affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. There is currently no known cause or cure for the condition.

When and Where? The Readathon takes place from October 13th to November 13th 2017. Please visit www.msreadathon.ie to find out more. You can register as a school, class or individual.

Why? Funds raised by young readers around the country directly support vital services, for example the MS Ireland Information Line, enabling one-to-one support for those newly diagnosed, physiotherapy and exercise classes to help people with MS remain independent, and respite care. More than two-thirds of the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland access these resources.

How? Young readers can get their reading lists ready by checking the 2017 lists on www.msreadathon.ie featuring great books for kids from the new to the classics. To get involved with the 30th MS Readathon 2017, visit the websiteFor more information on MS and MS Ireland, visit www.ms-society.ie.


At the launch this year, Felicity Dahl marked the milestone for the sponsored reading initiative, along with official proud sponsors, Heinz. Felicity’s late husband, Roald Dahl launched the first ever MS Readathon in 1988, beginning three decades of adventures in reading.” Over the past 30 years, MS Readathon has encouraged children all across Ireland to make friends with books and the reading habit whilst raising funds for a highly worthwhile cause.”

Cecelia Ahern, author, also praised the initiative: “MS Readathon has been so influential in encouraging children to read over the past thirty years. Reading is so important because it broadens our imaginations, and imagination is so important because it give us the opportunity to envision new possibilities, charges our creativity, and enhances our life. ”