Simone Riley + Elliott Spencer: Health Literacy & Ebola


This first portion is the Writing of Simone Riley!


Ebola and Health Literacy


The Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a deadly viral infection that made national headlines in 2014. The 2014 - 2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was the largest outbreak of this disease in recorded history. Even though it seemed new to much of the world at that time, EVD was actually first discovered in 1976 along the Ebola River which runs through the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ebola virus disease is a part of a group of viruses under the genus Ebolavirus. Only four out of the six of these viruses (Ebola, Sudan, Taï Forest, and Bundibugyo viruses) are able to infect humans. The Ebola virus is a zoonosis. This means that the virus is transmitted to humans from animals. Scientists believe that bats and nonhuman primates like chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas all have the capacity to carry and transmit this fatal disease to other animals and humans. Though it is not confirmed, the majority of scientists believe that bats are the reservoir, or natural, host of the virus. The transmission of EVD is quite straightforward. Any direct physical contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or tissue of an infected person or animal can cause disease ,even after the infected organism is dead. Symptoms of the diseases tend to emerge anywhere from two to twenty-one days after direct contact with contaminated people, animals, or items. Symptoms of EVD include: fever, aches and pains, weakness and fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting, stomach pains, and unexplained hemorrhaging, bleeding, or bruising. These ailments are the product of the virus infecting several of the victim’s cells,”Upon entering the body, the virus targets specific cell types, including liver cells, cells in the immune system, and endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels. Once inside the cells, one of the proteins made by the virus is called Ebola virus glycoprotein”(Kelsey). This protein is a major component of the destruction of cell adhesives. The cells’ ability to cling to one another and to a scaffold called the extracellular matrix are traits of healthy, solid tissue (Kelsey). This is the reason as to why the glycoprotein’s presence in the cells is so disastrous. Separating cells in the blood vessels can cause the vessels to leak and allow for hemorrhaging and internal bleeding. Blood vessels are not the only part of the body that suffer attacks from the virus. Once Ebola compromises the liver cells, clearing toxins from the bloodstream becomes nearly impossible. The immune system’s cells also fall victim to this condition,”It infects dendritic cells, which normally display signals of an infection on their surfaces to activate T lymphocytes—the white blood cells that could destroy other infected cells before the virus replicates further. With defective dendritic cells failing to give the right signal, the T cells don’t respond to infection, and neither do the antibodies that depend on them for activation. The virus can start replicating immediately and very quickly” (Servick). This is an example of the virus taking control of a cell’s mechanisms to preserve its own life and replicate itself. EVD is an RNA virus that corrupts animal cells, therefore it makes its home in the cells’ cytoplasm. If it goes untreated, this suffocating disease can completely annihilate the body’s functionality and lead to a fatal case of organ failure. Even though the mortality rate of the Ebola virus disease is up to 90%, there are steps that doctors can take to delay the symptoms and aid in increasing the patient’s probability of survival. These actions are as follows: intravenously providing the patient with fluids and body salts, supplying oxygen therapy, administering medication for blood pressure support, vomit and diarrhea reduction, fever and pain management, and treating other infections, if they arise. As of right now, there are no antiviral drugs that inhibit the virus from replicating, but scientists work tirelessly to discover a cure. As the saying says,”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The FDA recently approved an Ebola vaccine called Ervebo™ on December 19, 2019. Hopefully this vaccine can protect the world against this highly infectious disease.

Though EVD is not solely confined to one part of the Earth, the majority of cases occur on the African continent. This includes countries like The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan (South Sudan), Senegal, Gabon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Uganda, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The amount of outbreaks in Africa breeds a culture of stigma around those affected by this disease. Scientists across the world have taken part in a year-long study surrounding the stigmatization of Ebola survivors in Liberia, Africa. The study examined the survivors by issuing them a questionnaire covering their mental and physical health status and a 16-question survey of Ebola-related stigma. The conclusion revealed that stigma against survivors prevailed even a year after the subjects’ recovery. Many other countries like Sierra Leone can identify heavily with this reality. Sierra Leone reported that social isolation and internalised stigma ran rampant through survivors and their communities. This is likely due to two different things. The first being the public’s shifting impression of the healthcare system. A study in Sierra Leone revealed that when there were a high number of cases healthcare workers became more detached and would not work to the best of their ability for fear of infection. This attitude led to citizens feeling afraid to go to their doctor for any illness ,not just Ebola, because they did not feel that they would receive adequate service. However, when Ebola cases declined mistrust of the healthcare system dissipated. The next reason as to why Ebola survivors feel shame for their previous condition is the toll that the outbreak put on communities’ lives and livelihood. Government-imposed bans on public gatherings caused major interferences in the daily lives of citizens,”Economic, sociocultural and religious disruptions were particularly perceived as caused by the Ebola outbreak. Nearly every participant shared that the outbreak had a negative toll on his or her household economy, primarily due to loss of income during the prolonged epidemic. Many were farmers and traders, and limitations in community interactions hindered their ability to exchange goods and services”(Nuriddin). This is where parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic can be drawn. Many people who have suffered from these breaks in daily life have put blame on the virus and its victims. This creates a society that rebels against any representatives of the disease. Africa is not the only country that fosters stigma against EVD and people affected by it. From negative comments and rumors to outright discrimination against people of African decent, the Ebola virus has made its mark on the world. A simple lack of education about the illness is usually the cause of the unkindness shown to West Africans and people who have traveled there. To combat hostility the CDC published a few ways to put a stop to stigma. Knowing facts and correcting rumors, raising awareness without instilling fear, having respect for people coming from West Africa, and showing support to affected parties are all ways to keep the discussion around EVD productive. If people had a clear understanding of how the condition is transmissited and the fact that it does not target a specific race or ethnicity, communication would be clearer. The record-breaking Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 shook West Africa as it tried to minimize the case numbers while battling stigma from the outside and inside of the country caused by the spread of misinformation and mistrust of the healthcare system.

Works Cited

CDC. “Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease).” CDC. CDC, 5 Nov. 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/about.html. 16 Nov. 2020.

James, P.B., Wardle, J., Steel, A. et al. “An assessment of Ebola-related stigma and its association with informal healthcare utilisation among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone: a cross-sectional study.” BMC Public Health 20, 182 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-8279-7

Kelsey, Ilana. “Ebola Virus: How it infects people, and how scientists are working to cure it.” Harvard University. Harvard University, 14 Oct. 2014, http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/ebola-virus-how-it-infects-people-and-how-scientists-are-working-to-cure-it/. 16 Nov. 2020.

Nichols, Hannah. “Ebola: What You Need to Know.” Medical News Today.Medical News Today, 23 May 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280598#:~:text=Ebola%20is%20one%20of%20several,the%20Filoviridae%20family%2C%20genus%20Ebolavirus. 16 Nov. 2020.

Nuriddin, Azizeh et al. “Trust, fear, stigma and disruptions: community perceptions and experiences during periods of low but ongoing transmission of Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone, 2015.” BMJ global health vol. 3,2 e000410. 1 Apr. 2018, doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000410

Overholt, Luc et al. “Stigma and Ebola survivorship in Liberia: Results from a longitudinal cohort study.” PloS one vol. 13,11 e0206595. 28 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0206595




The following was written by Elliott Spencer!


Ebola Virus: How it is Affects the Human Race


Viruses are one of the most deadly and scary things that are on the earth. Considering what is going on in 2020, Covid-19 is one major example of what viruses can do to people and their bodies. Ebola is also a major disease that impacts countries like the Congo and Ivory Coast. Ebola is one of the most deadly viruses known to man, and also one of several untreatable diseases, due to the lack of knowledge in the United States about the disease, the inability to form a cure because of ebola’s form, and the stigmatization that all people from Africa contain Ebola.

Ebola in the United States was unknown and uncommon until, in 2014, the virus entered the United States. The United States had no reason to research or find a cure for ebola due to the fact that it never had really impacted the states. Ebola was known as a major disease that impacted the continent of Africa, which meant that unless someone with the virus came to America, they did not need to worry about it. Before the outbreak in the USA, Americans knew very little about the virus. According to the CDC, the virus was known to be first transmitted by “Gorillas, chimpanzees, and other mammals may be implicated when the first cases of an EVD outbreak in people occur. However, they – like people – are “dead-end” hosts, meaning the organism dies following the infection and does not survive and spread the virus to other animals” (CDC). It was also known to be one of the deadliest viruses that ever existed, which caused some concern if it was ever to enter the United States. This affected how people reacted because this unknown virus was coming into the United States that was causing some panic and concern.

Ebola is also super difficult and hard to treat and cure. This is due to the fact that Ebola is a virus, which means that it is not caused by a bacteria. The main reason that most viruses are not able to be treated or cured is mainly due to the way it is formed in the body or created. Rachel Rettner from Livescience.com says, “Part of the reason is that Ebola is caused by a virus, rather than bacteria, and researchers in general have had a harder time developing treatments for viral diseases, compared with bacterial diseases,...That's because viruses are small molecules that produce only a handful of proteins, so there are fewer "targets" for treatment” (Rettner). The virus attaches the victim’s body and because it is so tiny, it is hard to trace and release from the bloodstream. This virus causes several symptoms that affect the victim dramatically. The virus attaches like a virus usually does with fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting. This is another reason why it's so hard to treat the virus, due to the fact that the person affected with it tries to treat the vomiting or diarrhea, but does not realize there’s a bigger issue.

Ebola created many stigmatizations that are motivated toward people that are from Africa or have family from Africa. Stigmatization is relevant in several diseases and viruses. It attaches the people who are stereotyped to have that curtain virus or bacteria. In the case of ebola, many people during the outbreak in the United States with African blood were looked down upon. They were often looked at as a threat or a worry in society and were mostly avoided. An African dad from New York City in 2014 says that his son came home one day and his kids were being called Ebola and by themselves for the rest of the week. The stigmatization of these people was not only affecting people with the virus, but also those who do not even have a connection with it. These people would be attacked, name called, and often harassed or avoided. And this can also affect peoples mental health as well, “Stigma and discrimination can also worsen someone's mental health problems, and delay or impede their getting help and treatment, and their recovery” (Mental Health Foundation). Ebola is a huge example of how people view others from Africa or that resemble any sort of relation to this horrific virus.

Ebola has changed the world and the United States due to how much information humans are exposed to about the disease, the reasoning for why a cure or vaccine for the virus is very difficult to produce, and why stereotypes can hurt or damage someone’s mental health. Ebola is a great example for people to understand that disease is not only something that affects people physically, but also is important to understand that it can affect perspective, and someone’s mental health.


  1. History of Ebola. 2018. Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

[https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/summaries.html]

  1. Rettner, Rachel. 2014. Ebola Virus: Why Isn’t There a Cure?.

[https://www.livescience.com/46479-ebola-treatment-cure.html]

  1. Sanburn, Josh. 2014. Ebola Brings Another Fear: Xenophobia.

[https://time.com/3544130/ebola-panic-xenophobia/]

  1. Signs and Symptoms. 2019. Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

[https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/symptoms/index.html]

Stigma and Discrimination. 2015. Mental Health Foundation. [https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination#:~:text=Stigma%20and%20discrimination%20can%20also,in%20a%20cycle%20of%20illness.]