Investigation of Biological, Sociological, and Statistical Factors Contributing to the Emergence and Spread of the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in West Africa

Author (Your Name)

Alexandra Anne BishopFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Sociology Dept.


Professor Matthew Archibald

Second Advisor

Professor Julie Millard


The sudden emergence of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa in 2014 stunned the global health community. The outbreak ravaged the precarious social structure and health infrastructure in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. On August 8th, 2014 the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chen, designated the 2014 EVD outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The 2014 EVD outbreak totaled 28,646 cases and affected ten countries. What factors contributed to the rapid transmission rate and geographical spread of EVD?

I present social, biological, and statistical components implicated in the severity of the 2014 EVD outbreak. Deforestation and consumption of bush meat increase animal-to-human and human-to-human contact, which created a breeding ground for EVD. The combination of insufficient health infrastructure, traditional medical and burial practices, and a cultural of fear perpetuated the spread of EVD. HCWs who responded to the EVD epidemic in West Africa faced the challenge of altering risk perception in local communities and responding to moral panic, or the fear that EVD would disrupt social norms. At the beginning of the outbreak, patients fear and distrust of the Ebola Treatment Units prevented them from seeking treatment. HCWs battled a minimally researched, rapidly mutating virus with the potential to easily adapt to new environments. With no approved treatment options, HCWs primarily relied on supportive care to treat patients. Epidemiological modeling provided critical information on risk factors, such as attending a burial. The 2014 EVD outbreak demonstrates the intricate connection between social practices and the spread of infectious disease, as well as the importance of global collaboration in disease management.


Ebola Biology Sociology Statistics Media Health

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