Ebola Virus Disease Stigmatization; The Role of Societal Attributes
Obilade, Titilola T.
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Globally, persons with diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, H1N1, SARS or HIV/AIDS have been stigmatized. The ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa has been the longest outbreak in the history of the disease and the first outbreak to ever occur in West Africa. The strain of Ebolavirus in West Africa is one of the most virulent strains of the Filoviridae family and case fatalities can be as high as 90%. Treatment of EVD is mainly supportive and societal attributes contribute to stigmatization of the disease and ultimately the spread of the disease. The method used in this study was a search in major databases including PUBMED and Google Scholar. The search phrase used in PUBMED was Ebola stigma. In Google Scholar, the search phrases used included Ebola stigma, EVD, perception of disease, culture and disease. The study also included a review of current events and data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this review, an overview of filoviral hemorrhagic fevers was discussed. The cultural beliefs on the causes of diseases and the stigmatization of infectious diseases in history were examined. In addition, the virulence between severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and EVD were compared. Specifically, it examined Ebola stigmatization and identified societal attributes responsible for the stigma and the implications for controlling the spread. It also points to ways to reduce EVD stigmatization as a way of controlling the spread of EVD. While there is a lot of ongoing research for the cure and control of EVD, little attention is being paid to the role of stigmatization in the control of the disease. Fear is the driving force of EVD stigmatization because EVD is a virulent, fast killing disease that has no cure. Powerlessness is another driving force in stigmatization. The sensationalism in news reporting and the mistrust of the government are factors playing on fear and rumor. Counselling should be provided to the community before survivors of EVD return home. Survivors of EVD should be counselled before going home. The government should set up a task force on stigmatization and make efforts to regain the trust of the people. Memorials for those that died from EVD should be erected in each of the districts affected. Schools should not be closed for long periods and should only be closed if there is recourse to distance education. Faith based organizations can also use the methods for distance education as a means to encourage their followers.