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“In order to say ‘never again’ to Ebola in West Africa, we need to understand the socio-cultural factors in Ebola’s acquisition and transmission.”
—Felix Ikuomola, doctor, Nigerian native, author of The Ebola Virus and West Africa: Medical and Sociocultural Aspects, published by iUniverse on July 10, 2015


Felix I. Ikuomola, Liberia’s Physician of the Year in 2006, recounts his real-life experiences with Ebola while analyzing the influences of war, cultural traditions, politics and poverty in the spread of the disease in The Ebola Virus and West Africa: Medical and Sociocultural Aspects. Ikuomola is a researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and a PhD candidate at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Ikuomola’s unique perspective allows the reader to appreciate how social conflicts, wars, corruption and bribery inhibited the creation of adequate public health facilities in West Africa, where life expectancy at the best of times is as low as 46 years old (Sierra Leone).

“Most West African public health facilities do not have enough beds, medications, or functioning medical equipment,” Ikuomola writes, adding that many of the instruments in hospitals there are outdated and no longer relevant or useful.

Creating a traditional-healer program

His fascinating experiences include encounters with traditional healers who are frequently the first (and only) source of medical advice for citizens in rural parts of those countries where—perhaps not surprisingly—Ebola began its most recent spread to epidemic proportions and triggered a worldwide health scare.

“African traditional healers consult spirits through incantation, divination or via mediums,” Ikuomola writes. His text proposes the creation of a traditional-healer program to engage traditional healers, faith healers, herbalists and birth attendants in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and his native Nigeria.

His idea is “to study what traditional healers know and what they are doing, so as to be able to advise them on safe traditional African medicinal practices.” He suggests nearby health facilities affiliate themselves with the traditional healers, allowing them to be classified as alternative medicine practitioners as is being done in China and other parts of the world where population far exceeds medical workers.

Ikuomola also reports the viral hemorrhagic fever is worsened in West Africa by an “academic hemorrhagic syndrome” that has left the region even more vulnerable to Ebola. “West Africa witnessed an exodus of…health workers abroad before the Ebola crises and the outbreaks led some of the remaining West African health workers to their untimely deaths. There is no way a society can survive with reduced numbers of qualified doctors and such a colossal disease as Ebola. It is no wonder that it did not take an eye’s blink before Ebola outran the capacity of the West African medical team.”

More about the book

Ebola virus book

The Ebola Virus and West Africa: Medical and Sociocultural Aspects provides a compact summary of the Ebola virus, outlining its nature, history, epidemiology and methods of treatment. In addition, the work examines the context of the disease’s outbreak by describing the people, politics and policies in West Africa before, during and after the recent outbreak. Finally, chapters summarize and explore the ethical issues that arise in pursuing treatments and discuss methods for improving control and prevention of additional outbreaks.

The book will provide a highly organized, comprehensive and insightful treatment of this virulent disease and its sociocultural elements to people with medical backgrounds and to individuals desiring to understand more comprehensively the impact of this disease on West Africa.

In either case, time spent with The Ebola Virus and West Africa will give you the background and analysis you need to respond intelligently to the challenges the virus presents to an increasingly globalized culture.

Read more about Ikuomola and The Ebola Virus and West Africa: Medical and Sociocultural Aspects on the John A. Burns School of Medicine website.

—By Tina Shelton

Felix I. Ikuomola
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