Activity 5- Epidemiological Perspective Upon Ebola in Guinea- Heba Malik

I believe that is integral to use an epidemiological perspective when examining the issue of Ebola in Guinea, as it is a new disease. The emergence of Ebola in guinea risks further spread of the epidemic to other parts of Africa, even though efforts to stymie the disease’s transmission are proving effective. Epidemiology is formally defined as “the study of the distribution and determinants of diseases and injuries in human populations” (Inhorn 1995).  It is essentially an effort to gain insight upon transmission and the origin of a disease, and with Ebola, this is necessary in order to find possible animal reservoirs for the disease in order to eliminate them and further efforts to eradicate the highly lethal disease. Epidemiology also works directly with people in order to establish a transmission chain, leading to a branching web of interconnected cases, leading towards the outbreak case. The most lethal strain of Ebola originated in Guinea, and this was only found using an epidemiological approach and tracing transmission from different prefectures in Guinea and finding the origin to be in the Meliandou Village in Guéckédou. Finding the origin of the disease led to a search in the area, and it was found that a likely reservoir for the disease was fruit bats. This led to further insight upon how to eradicate the disease, and was crucial towards understanding the elusive virus.

Furthermore, the epidemiologists contacted families of the afflicted, hospital staff, public health authorities, and many more individuals in order to construct a timeline linking the death of a 2-year old child in Guéckédou as the first suspected case. The epidemiologists worked to find that the outbreaks were concentrated in four clusters, and that spread was interconnected. This is all-important towards controlling the disease, because if even one individual who is carrying, or has the disease leaves the area and is unaccounted for, then the risk of an epidemic in another part of Africa, or even the world, is greatly increased. Epidemiologists help prevent this from occurring by finding all of the suspected cases and contacting everyone close to them to find if they were affected. Since epidemiology deals with the issue of the disease with respect to human populations, there is much social interaction, and the puzzle of transmission chains and finding the source of the outbreaks in the area are solved using interpersonal skills, along with technical knowledge of the disease.

Epidemiological theory and practice are important in all outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. In Guinea, it has proved to lead to a constructed map of transmission between suspected individuals, and led to finding potential reservoirs for the disease. The strain of Ebola in guinea is very deadly, and understanding more about the disease, through an epidemiological standpoint, is crucial towards making the world safer by eliminating the disease. Regardless of whether or not epidemiology is scientific or reductionistic in nature, we must understand that the methodologies employed by these epidemiologists are dictated by the situation. Situations like Ebola in Guinea definitely requires a scientific approach, because the disease is highly infectious, and improper knowledge or care would be potentially deadly. Moreover, in some cases, epidemiologists would definitely be “devoid of real human interaction,” however, in situations like the outbreak of a new strain of Ebola in Guinea, social interaction is necessary, if transmission chains are to be reliably produced (Inhorn 1995). In this way, epidemiology is highly adaptive, and we must not try to impart a strict definition upon the field, as illustrated through the epidemiological approach towards Ebola in Guinea.


Medical Anthropology and Epidemiology (Inhorn 1995)

Baize, Sylvian. “Emergence of Zaire Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea — NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine. 9 Oct. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.

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