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Case 11 : Going Beyond the Virus: Understanding the Drivers of the Ebola Virus Outbreak
Western Public Health Casebooks
  • Reshel Perera, Western University
  • Michel Deilgat, Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Suzanne Boucher, Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Ava A John-Baptiste, Western University
Case Synopsis

The protagonist, Jason Fitzgerald, faces challenges performing contact tracing during an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This represents a small fraction of the many difficulties in responding to the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak. Despite the best efforts of national and international organizations, the outbreak isn’t close to being contained. In fact, the virus threatens to spread to neighbouring countries, triggering the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on July 17, 2019. The Ebola outbreak is a dangerous, complex, and ongoing public health concern with serious national and international implications. The case illustrates important factors involved in outbreak response. As such, this case discusses the stakeholders involved in international health governance and the role of global health security in the political and international discourse on infectious disease control. The case illustrates the challenges of outbreak responses and sheds light on the role of regional sociocultural factors in fuelling the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

Case Objectives
  1. Analyze global health governance and global health security and discuss the roles of organizations in epidemic management.
  2. Adopt a systems-thinking approach to understand complex and multifaceted challenges in outbreak responses.
  3. Formulate alternative solutions to current practices in global outbreak responses.
Case Study Questions
  1. List the factors involved in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  2. Define global health security and describe the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations. How does the WHO determine when a PHEIC is declared?
  3. What are the implications of declaring a PHEIC?
  4. Why is medical intervention inadequate to reduce the number of Ebola infections and end the outbreak?
  5. How can the outbreak response be improved?
  • Ebola outbreak,
  • Ebola Virus Disease,
  • global health security,
  • infectious disease governance,
  • international health regulations,
  • outbreak response,
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo,
  • foreign complacency
Citation Information
Perera, R., Deilgat, M., Boucher, S., John-Baptiste, A. (2020). Going Beyond the Virus: Understanding the Drivers of the Ebola Virus Outbreak in: McKinley, G. & Speechley, M. [eds] Western Public Health Casebook 2020. London, ON: Public Health Casebook Publishing.