Ebola Is Mostly Killing Women

by Dish Staff

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic

Lauren Wolfe wants more attention paid to that fact:

Data show that many infectious diseases affect one gender more than another. Sometimes it’s men, as with dengue fever. Sometimes it’s women generally, as with E. coliHIV/AIDS (more than half the people living with the virus are female), and Ebola in some previous outbreaks. Sometimes it’s pregnant women and mothers, as with H1N1 (an outbreak in Australia is currently infecting women over men by a 25 percent margin).

Yet when women are the primary victims of an epidemic, few are willing to recognize that this is the case, ask why, and build responses accordingly. Indeed, experts say that too little is being done to put even the small amount that is known about gender differences and infectious diseases into practice — to determine in advance of outbreaks, for instance, how understanding gender roles might help in the development of a containment or prevention strategy. Not only that, but there is too little research being done to understand how infectious diseases affect the sexes differently on a biological level. It’s like Groundhog Day each time a disease surges, and people are losing their lives because of it. “We can’t get past the ‘interesting observation’ stage,” says Johns Hopkins University professor Sabra Klein. Public health officials generally gather data on age and sex in a crisis, but “nobody goes somewhere with it.”

(Photo: A West Point slum resident looks from behind closed gates on the second day of the government’s Ebola quarantine in her neighborhood on August 21, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. By John Moore/Getty Images)