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Aims: The West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak of 2014-2016 was the most disastrous EVD epidemic in history. We aimed to investigate and provide unique theoretical insights which could help inform future responses to EVD outbreaks. Methods: After searching five key databases in May 2021 and February 2022  (Medline, Embase, PubMed, Scopus and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL)), 412 papers were collected. Following abstract and full text screening, 35 papers were identified for inclusion.  Coded data was synthesised in accordance with the protocol set out by Thomas and Hardon. Findings: Regarding geographical context, most fieldwork underpinning included studies was conducted within Western Urban Area in Sierra Leone, suggesting that some geographical discrepancy exists within the literature base. In terms of quality, some issues were identified regarding researcher reflexivity, ethical procedures and data analysis. Following thematic synthesis, it was found that beliefs and/or practices relating to distrust, fear, socio-cultural considerations and denial hindered engagement with control measures. By contrast, experiencing the virus first-hand and engaging with survivors prompted the uptake of such measures. Building from these findings, we then proposed an amendment to Barry Hewlett’s Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology (ECA) framework, shedding light on the determinants of such beliefs and/or practices. Conclusion: Our review provides a systematic mapping of which beliefs and/or practices either promoted or hindered response efforts during the outbreak as well as an authentic and holistic way of understanding why such beliefs and/or practices emerged, by synthesising Hewlett’s ECA framework with our findings. By drawing from our cross contextual analysis, health professionals throughout West Africa and beyond could use this work in further reflecting on and guiding the implementation of control measures prior or during future EVD outbreaks.

Original publication




Journal article


Global Biosecurity


University of New South Wales

Publication Date