FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

Forest Service unlikely contributor to study of Ebola virus in Liberia

Study of Ebola virus in Liberia
Study of Ebola virus in Liberia | Courtesy of
A study recently conducted by United States Forest Service researchers shows that social vulnerability indices typically used for natural hazards and climate change research can be helpful with disease outbreaks.

"It might seem strange that a group of Forest Service researchers are writing about Ebola," John Stanturf, senior scientist with the Southern Research Station Center for Forest Disturbance Science, said. "We developed the social vulnerability index for a (United States Agency for International Development) USAID climate change vulnerability assessment of Liberia, so we had the data and were interested in seeing whether it could be helpful when the Ebola epidemic struck in 2014."

The research demonstrates that census and household survey data, which can be mapped on the district level, helps to emphasize the populations and households that are most vulnerable to outbreaks, like the Ebola virus.

"We know that vulnerability and poverty are not the same, but the two are often highly correlated," Stanturf said. "Poverty reduces people's ability to cope with, recover from, or adapt to external stresses that affect their livelihood and well-being, thus increasing their social vulnerability."

The research can be used to detect vulnerability hotspots, which is where resources can be sent to relieve food insecurity, water quality, and medical care access.

The article by Stanturf, Scott Goodrick, Christie Stegall, Mel Warren and Susan Charnley is available in PLOS ONE, an online journal.

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