Ebola Fight Hampered by Misinformation and Mistrust

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Patrick Vinck, PhDResearch Director, Harvard Humanitarian InitiativeAssistant Professor, Global Health and Population T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health; Emergency MedicineHarvard Medical SchoolLead Investigator, Brigham & Women's Hospital 

Dr. Vinck

Patrick Vinck, PhD
Research Director, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
Assistant Professor, Global Health and Population
T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health; Emergency Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Lead Investigator, Brigham & Women’s Hospital 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: The second worst epidemic of Ebola on record is currently unfolding in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Whether or not safe practices are implemented to prevent the spread of the epidemic is influenced by the behavior of individuals at-risk of contracting the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) –

Will they follow the recommendations of health professionals? Will they report suspected cases and deaths? Will they seek treatment from health professionals? Will they accept vaccines and adopt preventive behaviors?

We find that belief in misinformation about Ebola is widespread and trust in authorities is generally low, likely as a result of decades of violence and poor governance and, more recently, the politicization of the Ebola response.

Our analysis shows that trust and (mis-)information influence adherence to risk avoidance behavior and acceptance of vaccination.

 MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: There have been dramatic advances in the medical response to Ebola, but our understanding of the social dynamics and community perceptions related to behavior during outbreaks remains limited, especially in highly insecure environments like eastern DRC. Trust-building must be effectively translated into response strategies, communication protocols, and mediation efforts.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Significant public and philanthropic funds should be invested in assessing and monitoring factors influencing adherence to Ebola risk reduction and avoidance behaviors, and more broadly in the context of other outbreaks. Combined with epidemiological research, socio-behavioral research will lead to a better understanding of responses to Ebola and other health emergencies.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: This study benefited from a unique capacity to collect socio-behavioral data we developed in eastern Congo well before the current outbreak, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme. This infrastructure leveraged technology for rapid deployment and monitoring of key indicators. It could serve as a model for integration with surveillance systems, leveraging community resources to ensure that the right message is delivered in the right place by the right people, and that safe practices are implemented to prevent the spread of epidemics. 


Institutional trust and misinformation in the response to the 2018–19 Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, DR Congo: a population-based survey

Patrick Vinck, PhD , Phuong N Pham, PhD, Kenedy K BinduJ,uliet Bedford, DPhil,
Eric J Nilles, MD
Published:March 27, 2019 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30063-


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