Public Health

Ebola in Liberia: An Epidemic of Rumors. The New York Review of Books. December 18, 2014

Until now, controlling Ebola was thought to be so straightforward that when the US government was forced to cut “nonessential” programs in the aftermath of the 2012 “fiscal cliff” standoff, Defense Department research on a promising Ebola drug was among the first things to be axed. The World Health Organization was so sanguine about Ebola that it didn’t declare the West African epidemic a public health emergency—a step that automatically mobilizes large-scale fund-raising from donors—until August 8, nearly six months after the first cases were discovered….What went wrong? In October, I went to Liberia with this question in mind. I came to believe—as others have suggested—that the problem was fundamentally political.5When the epidemic occurred, many ordinary Liberians were so profoundly estranged from their government that they assumed it was lying to them and actively disbelieved the warnings that Nyenswah and others were desperately broadcasting to the nation and the world

Liberia: The Hidden Truth about Ebola. NYR Daily. October 27, 2014

No one knows for sure what is responsible for the slow down in the disease’s spread, but it seems that many Liberians, who at first denied the epidemic was real, have come to their senses and changed their behavior by avoiding direct physical contact with sick or dead people. At the same time, the government in coordination with international partners such as Doctors Without Borders has set up a system to isolate and care for patients and monitor their contacts for symptoms. Questions remain about why this epidemic was so severe in the first place, but it seems that this simple set of interventions, which has worked in the past to contain twenty-five previous known Ebola outbreaks in Africa since 1976, is belatedly working here too.

Are Tyrants Good for Your Health? The Lancet. April 26, 2014