Networking to Avert a Trans-European Public Health Disaster: the Case of the Ebola Crisis

Carlos Bravo-Laguna


This paper will examine a trans-European crisis in the realm of public health through the use of social network analysis. More specifically, it will determine which actors exercised the greatest influence across the network of institutions that managed the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. A virulent outbreak of the Ebola disease killed thousands of individuals in this region between December 2013 and March 2016; particularly devastating were its effects in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The resolution of this crisis became a public health priority for the European Union after a Spanish nurse became the first person to contract the disease in Europe. Indeed, this incident increased exponentially the risk of contagion to EU citizens. This article will also reflect on the low levels of socialization between the European Union and the countries hit the most by the Ebola outbreak. In particular, it will assess the extent to which this circumstance affected the ability of the European Union to contribute effectively to the crisis response. The network that constitutes the empirical backbone of this piece has been built on the basis of information extracted from a survey which was distributed among a series of experts who contributed to the management of the Ebola crisis, an analysis of official and press documents, as well as from a series of semi-structured elite interviews.

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