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In this case study, readers will embark on an improbable journey through the heart of Africa to discover how indigenous people cope with the rapid-killing Ebola virus. The Hewletts are the first anthropologists ever invited by the World Health Organization to join a medical intervention team and assist in efforts to control an Ebola outbreak. Their account addresses political, structural, psychological, and cultural factors, along with conventional intervention protocols as problematic to achieving medical objectives. They find obvious historical and cultural answers to otherwise-puzzling questions about why village people often flee, refuse to cooperate, and sometimes physically attack members of intervention teams. Perhaps surprisingly, readers will discover how some cultural practices of local people are helpful and should be incorporated into control procedures. The authors shed new light on a continuing debate about the motivation for human behavior by showing how local responses to epidemics are rooted both in culture and in human nature. Well-supported recommendations emerge from a comparative analysis of Central African cases and pandemics worldwide to suggest how the United States and other countries might use anthropologists and the insights of anthropologists to mount more effective public health campaigns, with particular attention to avian flu and bioterrorism.
- Appendix A, “The Role of a Medical Anthropologist in Outbreak Alert and Response,” presents an outline of activities that a medical anthropologist can take with regard to preparedness, the early acute phase, the duration of the acute phases, and the final phases of the outbreak.
- Appendix B offers a list of Internet sites that can be useful resources for readers who wish to know about Ebola, outbreaks, epidemic and pandemic alerts, and more.
2. Outbreak Ethnography: The Anthropologist’s Toolkit.
3. Indigenous Knowledge about Epidemics: Uganda 2000-2001.
4. Providing Humanitarian Care: Congo 2003.
5. Facing Death and Stigmatization: Healthcare Workers and Survivors.
6. Ebola Outbreaks, Past and Present.
7. Outbreak Control.
8. Explaining Human Responses to Acute High-Mortality Epidemics.
9. Policy, Terrorism, and Bird Flu.
Appendix A: The Role of a Medical Anthropologist in Outbreak Alert and Response.
Appendix B: Useful Internet Sites.