Ebola in West Africa

Ebola Hemorrhagic fever is a virus which can be fatal. It is thought to be an animal to human disease which is called a zoonotic but this is not known for sure. Due to the facts that the reservoir is unknown it is hard to say how the disease is transmitted however it is thought to happen with contact with an infected animal through blood or secretions. The problem with this virus is that the symptoms in the beginning are very similar to the common flu or other viruses. In West Africa right now the only thing that they really can do is to keep the people infected with the virus in isolation and make sure to give them IV infusions of nutrients. Already there have been many deaths in the West Africian area which is creating a sense of panic within the population there and around the world. President Obama is even addressing the nation with information about the disease and the efforts we are taking to help over there.

The difference between American medicine and African way of health care is that we have more resources and are able to more readily provide for the people.  Anthropologist is working to understand the culture and fears among the people. This will help not only to treat the disease but also to keep the public from panicking since that is probably the worst thing to happen during an outbreak. Governments in all countries are using funds to do research and treat the population as well as working to keep Ebola from spreading to other areas. The anthropologist are also working to help doctors to understand how the populations in West Africa perceive this disease, says Linda Poon. The goal of the mission in West Africa is to contain the current outbreak.



Poon, Linda. “Why Anthropologists Join An Ebola Outbreak Team.” NPR. April 2, 2014. Accessed August 8, 2014.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jaana Ashtiani says:

    In this particular article, it was proven that without the help of anthropologists, many global health issues cannot be resolved. With the recent outbreak of ebola, the U.S has been offering a lot of medical assistance to African countries who don’t have the means to provide it for their people themselves. However, in many instances this help has been pushed away or rejected due to the cultural barriers that exist between the natives and the “Western” doctors. This article shows both an ethnomedical and applied anthropological approach to this crisis, by understanding their medical systems and protocols for healing. For example, many of the African people refused to get help for their loved ones because all they knew of the western help system was that the patients would be taken behind medical tents, and returned in zipped up body bags. Also, the idea of “virus” was not something they understood, and instead of trying to explain it to them, the doctors were very culturally insensitive about it. Even in certain areas, the natives blamed the quick death of their loved ones on sorcery, and did not believe any of these Western doctors had the means to prevent this. Anthropologists were then able to remove some of this tension by allowing the natives to see their loved ones one last time, or explaining the virus as an “evil spirit” that could be passed on from one body to the next by close contact. Using these applied and ethnomedical approaches, they were able to remove some of the fear and resentment that the African people felt towards the Western professionals who were trying to help them. Without the help of anthropologists in this situation, I feel that it would be impossible to every truly help the African people. With their macro views on society, and cultural understanding of the people and religion, anthropologists were able to understand certain reasons as to why the outbreak was so tremendous. By viewing it from multiple dimensions, the healing process became much more efficient.

  2. Mary Normand says:

    This particular issue is very interesting to me because of all the media coverage that has been surrounding it lately. Since there is no cure for Ebola, the only thing we can hope to do right now is prevent and control it, but this poses a problem when there is a communication problem between health care professionals and locals. Medical anthropologists are crucial to preventing this Ebola outbreak from getting much worse. Since there was no cultural understanding between the health care workers and the people in Uganda, there were bad feelings and mistrust. When families aren’t familiar with the practices of health care professionals and don’t trust them, they don’t want to bring their family members into the clinic and isolation wards when they get sick. Since there was a lack of communication, people were getting sick and not seeking treatment. This is a perfect example of how clinical medical anthropology is so helpful. Doctors are dealing with a very deadly disease and doing the best they can, so it’s helpful to have someone to come in who knows about the culture to teach them about to heal someone better. After medical anthropologists came in, people weren’t scared to go to the clinics anymore. When they were able to talk a sick relative or see a body, it showed that the doctors respected the culture and built trust. Without medical anthropologists, this Ebola outbreak could be much worse.

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