Biosocial Approaches to the 2013-2015 Ebola Pandemic

Despite more than 25 documented outbreaks of Ebola since 1976, our understanding of the disease is limited, in particular the social, political, ecological, and economic forces that promote (or limit) its spread. In the following study, we seek to provide new ways of understanding the 2013-2015 Ebola pandemic. We use the term, ‘pandemic,’ instead of ‘epidemic,’ so as not to elide the global forces that shape every localized outbreak of infectious disease. By situating life histories via a biosocial approach, the forces promoting or retarding Continue reading →

Special Report: Why Sierra Leone Can’t Get Rid of Ebola

Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, was having trouble “getting to zero,” and his underlings were getting antsy. “We need one more push,” said Major Palo Conteh, the commander of Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and a former Olympic quarter miler. “It’s like in the 400 meters when you’re 20 meters from the finish line, that’s the time to kick hard.” Brigadier General David Taluva, a jovial officer with the physique of a shot putter, had other Continue reading →

Managing health crises after Ebola

The outbreak of Ebola that has affected West Africa since December 2013 is the largest to date, with enormous human and economic costs. It has also exposed weaknesses in the global response system, including the handling of communication and complex social responses. What can we learn from this to better manage future health emergencies? This Spotlight presents an in-depth analysis including opinions, facts and figures, and key resources. It features commentary by Sylvie Briand of the WHO, Rosamund Southgate of Médecins Sans Frontières and Annie Continue reading →

Three Myths About Ebola: The Stories the West Tells Itself

Ebola’s reputation is fearsome. Its horrifying symptoms, quick human-to-human transmission, and exotic locale seem ready-made for a thriller movie. Indeed, in the midst of the largest Ebola virus outbreak ever, a real-time script is emerging. The story goes something like this: tribal habits, including archaic burial customs and a penchant for bush meat, have led to the emergence and spread of Ebola virus disease. The solution to the terrifying epidemic is to put patients in treatment centers, which are set up and staffed by foreign Continue reading →

Ebola teams need better cultural understanding, anthropologists say

A defining feature of this Ebola epidemic has been the significant resistance of some of the affected communities to treatment and prevention measures by foreign aid workers and their own governments. Many local people, suspicious and fearful, have refused to go to treatment centers or turn over bodies for safe burial, and whole communities have prohibited the entry of doctors and health teams. As the months have gone by that resistance has been less reported upon, and there are signs that it may be lessening. Continue reading →