Via her blog Mens et Manus, Maia Majumder has another interesting post: Bringing Systems-Thinking to #Ebola2014. Excerpt:
Right now, we’re bearing witness to an outbreak in Guinea that has allegedly infected more than 100 people, killing the majority of those who cross its path – for the first time in at least forty years, if not more than that .
So, how did this happen?
…Something must have changed, making the Guinean population more vulnerable to Ebola than it’s ever been in the (documented) past. I
’m not a virologist – and I don’t claim to be the world’s leading expert on filoviruses. At best, I’m a systems engineer who sometimes moonlights as an epidemiologist. But to my untrained eye, all signs point to some sort of ecosystem disruption.
In my last article, I explored this angle further and proposed that industrial logging and deforestation in Central Africa may have acted as an enabling condition for the (re-)emergence of Ebola in West Africa. My objective was not to give a definitive answer to the question asked in the headline. Instead, it was to provide a systems-thinking perspective to a space largely inhabited by health professionals and microbiologists.
I’ve received a few comments regarding my theory – suggesting that Ebola was bound to make an appearance in West Africa someday, that the question was never “if” but rather, “when”. I don’t disagree with this; I simply believe that the “how” question is still valid – even when it comes to seemingly inevitable events.
Understanding how Ebola (re-)emerged in Guinea might help us prevent similar zoonotic disease outbreaks in other vulnerable regions. Expertise in the virus and the people it affects is essential to answering this question but can’t be considered in isolation. The animals that carry the disease and the ecosystem in which they live are equally important.
We must also be willing to take a step back and look at the larger, cross-disciplinary system that connects them.
One of the few pleasant aspects of blogging endless bad news is that the news sometimes brings new people, with new perspectives, into the Flublogian conversation. H7N9 brought us Dr. Ian Mackay and Shane Granger. MERS brought us Andrew Rambaut. Now Ebola has brought us Maia Majumder.