Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Azonto Virus: A PSA

A new study published today by the University of Wope Laif  revealed some troubling news.  The study claims that a new virus has emerged, and the contagious viral infection has been traced back to the country of Ghana.  Apparently the primary means of infection is a genre of music called hiplife.  The virus is said to have been dormant until now.  Although hiplife as a popular music genre emerged in the 1990s, scientists say the virus has probably only been an active infection for the past five years.  It is said to affect hearing, range of motion, and memory. Scientists participating in the study describe the infection as one of the most contagious and evasive viruses they have ever studied.  As of publication, the virus only appears to affect oburonis.  "Eh! The virus, you know, it takes over the body stealthily. Ohh, slowly but surely the victims of this virus find that their past skills and abilities on the dance floor have been erased.  All memories of former dance moves and dance behaviors are forgotten, and only the azonto remains," Dr. Kwame Ankaa said.  The study took place over a five year period and included a group of two hundred participants, all having studied abroad or lived in Ghana for an extended period of time.  "We included people from all over the world.  They all came from different racial, ethnic, socio-economic, lingual, and regional backgrounds.  They all traveled to different regions of Ghana.  They all ate a diverse array of both local and international cusines, from jollof to KFC.  The only constant was their exposure to hiplife music while in the company of Ghanaian natives," said Dr. Francis Rockstone.

Although they may vary, symptoms most often presented were:

A sense of increased agility
Unrequited pivotal foot motion
Tandem parallel arm and leg extension
Isolated hip rotation
Pantomimed activities such as driving, cooking, and ironing
Exaggerated throwing of shade
Spontaneous male vs. female dance battles
Extreme nostalgia

What is worrisome about these symptoms is that although hiplife music is the main carrier of the virus, it is by no means necessary for continued presentation of symptoms.  "Once you have been infected, the virus is in you permanently.  Once exposed, all the study participants presented the same range of symptoms when hip hop, reggae, dancehall, (and even electronic music in a few cases) was played," said Dr. Michael Asante.  All study participants were in Ghana from a minimum of two months to a maximum of two years, and all of the participants returned to their native countries.  Once home, each one reported continued presentation of symptoms, usually induced by a club or party environment where music with rhythms similar to hip life music was played.  All participants reported that once home, they expected to revert back to their original styles of dancing, but were unable to remember how they danced before they traveled to Ghana.  "It was like I had been brainwashed or conditioned or something.  My best friend and I traveled to Ghana together, and when we got home, it was like we were Pavlovian dancers when we went to the club.  The music was our trigger and the response was azonto.  We could not stop doing it," a young college student stated bravely.  Of the two hundred participants in the study, only seventeen have demonstrated small levels of resistance to the virus.  "If I try really hard, I can sort of remember the dougie and the bernie, but those are the only two dance moves from my pre-Ghana days I can recall,"claimed one participant.  All participants expressed an intense desire to return to Ghana.  "We want to go back as soon as possible.  We love our home and all, but Ghana is just, well, it's just home to us too.  The people I studied abroad with, we all keep in touch on our Facebook page for our program.  We felt less awkward when we azonto-ed in Ghana.  We know we were infected there, but in all honesty, this is probably the best virus to get infected with," said a young volunteer.

Doctors warn that the infection is incurable.  "Chale, it can only be managed.  Victims must avoid triggers if they don't want to present symptoms and risk facing stigmatization from friends and family.  Although the azonto virus is aggressive, it is not destructive or immuno-compromising.  It is highly contagious in that even secondary exposure can cause infection and make people who have never been to Ghana desire to learn azonto, but no participants have experienced any life threatening symptoms from the virus.  Doctors say that the best course of treatment is unique for every victim.  "Each person must choose how they want to treat their illness.  If they view their infection as a sort of biological souvenir of their time in Ghana, then they should embrace the azonto, and express it in dance venues whenever possible.  If they are embarrassed by their memory loss and often unconscious movements, they should avoid trigger music ask themselves how did they behave before their Ghana experience, and maybe try hypnosis if they are unable to naturally recall their pre-Ghana dance repetoire," said Abena Sarkodie.  

This PSA is a warning to all individuals who are considering traveling to, preparing to travel to or are returning from travel to Ghana.  If you present with any of the above listed symptoms, you may have been infected with the Azonto Virus.  Doctors recommend locating your nearest African student union and/or chop bar to find an ally.  Managing this new and increasingly less rare infection may be difficult, but look on the bright side, you probably look much cooler on the dance floor now, than you ever did before.