Ebola Fear and Misinformation Is Still Weighing on the People of Vickery Meadow

Two weeks ago, the Vickery Meadow neighborhood was known as the United Nations of Dallas -- a hodgepodge blending of immigrants and cultures from all over the world. Now, since this country's first Ebola patient was taken ill in the neighborhood, the world associates it with "Patient Zero," the epicenter of the virus outside of Africa. And many Vickery Meadow residents say if they mention to someone at a store or at work that they live in this neighborhood, they may be ostracized.

See also: Ebola Story Is All About Who, What, Where and Whether To Tell Anybody

Which is why Haj Ali, who moved to the neighborhood from Eritrea in 2012, says it's better just to stay home and stay quiet. "I hear about this Ebola coming from Africa, so I know about that," he says. "But me, I stay in my house. Sometimes people could associate me with the Ebola, because I am from Africa, so you have to be careful with that information."

And local workers confirm their sneaking suspicion of Vickery Meadow residents. One guy who works at a Target just off Park Lane says that although he does not live in the neighborhood, news of the virus makes him uncomfortable around customers from the area.

"I'd want to get away from these people if they came in. It's right here, in the middle school and high school. It's all around. And Presbyterian isn't far from here, that's where the guy died," he says. "If I see somebody is sick, I'll want a mask. And I'd go to a manager and tell them to talk to the person. You've got to be careful. You just have to stay sanitized and just be careful."

Another one of his coworkers agrees. This woman also lives outside Vickery Meadow. "I heard one more person had it. So it's all here now," she says. "You can tell if people are sick. If you come in and you're sick, I'd use hand sanitizer, clean my register, do all kinds of things."

The woman says she isn't necessarily nervous around customers. "It is scary. But I wouldn't turn people away just yet," she says. Still, as with many Dallasites, her understanding of the virus -- and potential customer rejection -- is a bit skewed. "They say with Ebola you can't really get it unless you're sexual together, right?"

See also: The Economics of a Fear Epidemic Vs. Ebola Epidemic

One woman, who did not want to give her name, is a practicing physician and recent immigrant from Pakistan. She lives at the Ivy apartment complex and has been trying to combat the spread of misinformation among Vickery Meadow residents, particularly those in her complex.

"It's all scary and a lot of wrong information is out there. People tend to think whatever they want, so if you tell them that it can be spread at all, they just don't want to be near anybody from here," she says. "We had a meeting here, and one of the people said that someone at the grocery store told them to leave because they live at the Ivy."

It's a common story being echoed by many other residents. "There were some people that have been having problems in the workplace. People have been telling them that they shouldn't come to work because they live here," she says. "And I met someone who thought all of the people over here are being quarantined, and she thought I escaped somehow."

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Emily Mathis

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