Friday, November 14, 2014

Exploring the Social Context of Ebola

With all of the discussion about how to best address the international Ebola crisis, many have said that it is most important to address the issue at its root --- in West Africa. With respect to the large number of cases in that geographic region, it is important to identify the opportunity areas to reduce the spread of the virus. In particular, researchers from Yale, Oregon State University, and Liberia published a report in Science regarding the best ways to prevent the epidemic from spreading further. Their objective is to shift the R-naught (basic reproductive number) of the epidemic and effectively allow it to dwindle.

In particular, the research team highlighted funerals as "super-spreader events," suggesting the sad truth that the death of a loved one from Ebola might just spell more trouble. According to their research, funerals might have been some of the most high impact gatherings to increase Ebola transmission. In Liberia, cultural practices such as washing, touching, or kissing the bodies of loved ones may have contribute to this phenomena. The researchers suggested that bodies should be adequately disinfected prior to funeral services. In addition, personal protective equipment must be used properly, Ebola cases must be isolated adequately, and there should be "contact tracing" during quarantines. The authors make an important point that all of these recommendations are in the context of an ever-changing epidemic and must be updated as necessary.

We talked to Dr. Bucks about a lot of these issues as well, and it is nice to see research being done to address the social factors surrounding Ebola. In particular, we spoke about the need for anthropologists, epidemiologists, social workers, and other "non-conventional" medical staff to intervene in this public health  scenario. Hopefully there will be an increase in such interventions to capitalize upon these research findings and expedite getting in control of the Ebola situation.

Source (if you want to read more!): 


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