Got an Epidemic? Call an Anthropologist

The Ebola outbreak has the world going crazy. The virus’ symptoms are a high fever with internal bleeding and most likely death.  This virus and its four strains that can infect humans originated in Africa (CDC). It is now slowly leaking from the continent, and in America the first official diagnosis was in mid-September from a man in Texas (CNN).

With the frenzy surrounding the outbreak there is a team of experts working everyday to study the virus. This team of people includes, the Center for disease control, World Health Organization, along with other international and domestic groups.

The people in these groups have a wide range of expertise, from biology, to chemistry medicine and so forth. One of the most valuable experts that don’t seem to be among the ranks in combating the outbreak of Ebola are Anthropologists.

Anthropology is a social science, it is defined as “the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences”(American Anthropology Association). with this definition is doesn’t seem like an Anthropologist can do much for stopping or slowing the spread of Ebola, but they can.

In an article by Sharon Abramowitz, Ten Things that Anthropologists Can Do to Fight the West African Ebola Epidemic, she discusses all the things that an Anthropologist can do to help. Anthropologist’s especially medical Anthropologists, like Abramowitz, are a resource that the CDC, World Health Organization and other groups are choosing to ignore. Why do they choose to ignore these professionals, when they are screaming for help? In my opinion they don’t see these people have the right skill set to work with the virus, meaning they don’t look through microscopes and examine petri dishes all day. Instead an Anthropologist can bring the study of the disease back to the people (because that is after all who it is effecting). Anthropologist can gain connections with the communities that are being devastated by the virus. Anthropologists can have deep personal and professional connections to locals and by having this creating greater communications between local medical aid, international aid and greater means of communication between the locals and big organizations like the CDC. Not many Doctors Biologists of Chemists can say they have similar connections.

The CDC, World Health Organization, and other organizations combating the spread of Ebola will be able to look beyond conventional methods of fighting the virus and expand their experts to include Anthropologists. By doing this the outbreak may be calmed and further explanation of this disease will be found.

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