For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we look to the first human outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa, by far the largest and most extensive recorded to date anywhere, which began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013.
Understandably much attention has been placed upon the lethargy of the world's response to the outbreak as well as the role a broadly painted ‘poverty’ has played in the pathogen’s spread and case fatality rate. Some work has focused on the local deforestation, dedevelopment, population mobility, periurbanization, and inadequate health system that apparently smoothed Ebola’s ecophylogentic transition. But we can situate these diverse possibilities within a broader framework that unifies Ebola’s origins and its failure of containment. The neoliberal policies that truncated regional medical infrastructure also redirected forest development, resetting multispecies agroecologies, including perhaps between frugivore bats, a documented Ebola reservoir, and partially proletarianized pickers of increasingly commoditized oil palm.
Robert G. Wallace, PhD, is a public health phylogeographer visiting the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Global Studies. His research has addressed the evolution and spread of influenza, the agroeconomics of Ebola, the social geography of HIV/AIDS in New York City, the emergence of Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus out of Ugandan prehistory, and the evolution of infection life history in response to antivirals. Wallace is co-editor of Neoliberal Ebola: Modeling Disease Emergence from Finance to Forest and Farm (Springer) and co-author of Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process (Springer). He has consulted for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Learn more about the book, Neoliberal Ebola: Modeling Disease Emergence from Finance to Forest and Farm from the publisher, Springer.
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