What do people know about Ebola? Reflections on knowledge surveys during outbreaks.
Outbreaks of Ebola virus disease are no longer rare emergencies confined to rural areas whose spread could be contained within weeks to months. Ebola outbreaks have become recurrent and their death toll is larger. This evolution compels us to abandon the fiction of populations in outbreak areas as ‘ignorant’ about the disease and situate outbreaks within a larger regional history and memory. What do people living on the frontlines of epidemics think about the series of epidemics that they and their neighbours confront? Calls for understanding outbreak experiences and knowledge have become pressing since the 1990s, especially among humanitarian actors confronted with distrust and resistance against their intervention . However pressing, they are not new: in the 1980s, the rising epidemic of HIV/AIDS was similarly met with calls for researching the ‘cultural factors’ and adapting the response accordingly. Public health actors, then and now, generally first turn to behavioural research for revealing what they see as people’s misconceptions about infectious diseases. Amongst other tools, surveys on Knowledge Attitude Practice (KAP) wage the evidentiary force of quantitative research to determine the reasons behind distrust and rectify the response strategy, mostly through adapted communication messages. ...