Experiences of Ebola Survivors: Causes of Distress and Sources of Resilience

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Introduction: An appreciation of the experience of Ebola survivors is critical for community engagement and an effective outbreak response. Few qualitative, descriptive studies have been conducted to date that concentrate on the voices of Ebola survivors. Problem: This study aimed to explore the experiences of Ebola survivors following the West African epidemic of 2014. Method: An interpretive, qualitative design was selected using semi-structured interviews as the method of data collection. Data were collected in August 2015 by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium, for the purposes of internal evaluation. Data collection occurred at three sites in Liberia and Sierra Leone and involved 25 participants who had recovered from Ebola. Verbal consent was obtained, audio recordings were de-identified, and ethics approval was provided by Monash University (Melbourne, Australia). Findings: Two major themes emerged from the study: “causes of distress” and “sources of resilience.” Two further sub-themes were identified from each major theme: the “multiplicity of death,” “abandonment,” “self and community protection and care,” and “coping resources and activities.” The two major themes were dominant across all three sample groups, though each survivor experienced infection, treatment, and recovery differently. Conclusions: By identifying and mobilizing the inherent capacity of communities and acknowledging the importance of incorporating the social model of health into culturally competent outbreak responses, there is an opportunity to transcend the victimization effect of Ebola and empower communities, ultimately strengthening the response. Schwerdtle PM , De Clerck V , Plummer V . Experiences of Ebola survivors: causes of distress and sources of resilience. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2017;32(3):1–6.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-239
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • disease outbreaks
  • epidemics
  • hemorrhagic fever Ebola
  • qualitative research
  • survivors

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