From: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published January 11, 2016 10:06 AM

The Ebola-poverty link

Last year’s Ebola outbreak spread fastest and was hardest to control in poor communities, says a study which argues that future efforts to combat highly infectious diseases should target such areas.
A paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases at the end of 2015 showed that people in poorer parts of Montserrado county in Liberia — which contains the capital, Monrovia — were more likely to both catch Ebola and pass it on than those in wealthy neighbourhoods. Residents in areas of extreme poverty need rapid and high-quality healthcare interventions during outbreaks to contain epidemics quickly, it concludes. 

“The paper implies a need for more investment, time and effort spent on improving health and education in urban communities.” Elizabeth Hamann, International Rescue Committee

The study involved researchers from the Liberian ministry of health and Yale University in the United States. Together, they divided Montserrado into 324 neighbourhoods and classified them as low, middle or high income. They then created a data set from the more than 4,000 Ebola cases in the county and mapped this onto the corresponding neighbourhoods.
This data set included the timeframe for the onset, diagnosis and progression of Ebola in each patient, as well as instances of patients coming into contact with other people.
Ebola spread faster in the denser living conditions found in poorer areas than in other places, the study found. People with low socioeconomic status also had to travel further for healthcare — often on foot or by bus — than those of higher status, therefore coming into contact with more people before their illness was diagnosed and treated.

Ebola epidemic photo via Shutterstock.

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