Outbreak Culture: The Ebola Crisis and the Next Epidemic

Pardis Sabeti (Author) Lara Salahi (Author)


An award-winning genetic researcher who helped contain the Ebola outbreak and a prize-winning journalist reveal what it will take to prevent the next pandemic from spiraling out of control.

As we saw with our response to Ebola and Zika--and are seeing now with the disastrous early handling of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak--a lack of preparedness, delays in action, and large-scale system-wide problems with the distribution of critical medical resources can result in lost lives.

Outbreak Culture examines each phase of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa--one of the largest and deadliest epidemics to date--and identifies factors that prevented key information from reaching physicians. Drawing insights from clinical workers, data collectors, organizational experts, and public health researchers, Pardis Sabeti and Lara Salahi expose a fractured system that failed to gather and share knowledge of the virus and ensure timely containment. The authors describe how much more could have been done by global medical and political organizations to safeguard the well-being of caregivers, patients, and communities affected by this devastating outbreak and they outline changes that are urgently needed to ensure a more effective coordinated response to the next epidemic.

Secrecy, competition, and poor coordination plague nearly every major public health crisis--and we are seeing their deadly consequences play out again. A work of fearless integrity and unassailable authority, Outbreak Culture seeks to change the culture of responders.

Product Details

$25.95  $23.87
Harvard University Press
Publish Date
November 26, 2018
5.7 X 1.0 X 8.3 inches | 1.0 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Pardis Sabeti is Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. A member of the Broad Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Sabeti was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer, and one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2015. She is also the recipient of an NIH New Innovator Award and a Richard Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences.
Lara Salahi is an award-winning journalist and television producer for multiple outlets, including ABC News. She was part of the team at the Boston Globe awarded a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for its exhaustive and empathetic coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. Salahi is Assistant Professor of Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Endicott College.


A forceful and instructive account, as passionate and heartfelt as it is learned, Outbreak Culture reveals the experience most Ebola responders had but could not name. Through laboratory data and survey responses from hundreds of individuals directly involved in the world's largest public health endeavor, Sabeti and Salahi uncover competition, sabotage, fear, blame, and disorganization bordering on chaos, features that are seen in just about any lethal epidemic.--Paul Farmer, cofounder of Partners in Health
During epidemics and crises we see the best and worst of humanity. Outbreak Culture provides a thought-provoking account of the behaviors and ensuing politics that transpired throughout the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. This book offers important lessons, critically needed, to ensure that we are better prepared for the next epidemic.--Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
A heroic saga of human nature at its very best and worst. Sabeti and Salahi shed light on the fragmented and uncoordinated global response to the Ebola epidemic. All of us who respond to outbreaks now have a mandatory moral and cultural guide.--Joseph B. McCormick, coauthor of The Virus Hunters: Dispatches from the Frontline
This book, written eloquently by a journalist and a scientist, highlights many lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic. The need for transparency, collaboration, and coordination among individual actors and agencies is more important than ever.--Sylvia Blyden, former Sierra Leone Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs
[Sabeti and Pardis] uncover the chaos behind the world's response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, and posit how it could have been avoided...Rooted in personal stories and testimonies, the book is a critical, poignant postmortem of the epidemic.--Erin Blakemore"Washington Post" (11/25/2018)
Puts a human face on the challenges by telling the stories of researchers, clinicians and patients...The power of Outbreak Culture is its universality. It describes dynamics common at varying levels in every humanitarian emergency...A much-needed call for greater justice next time.-- (11/08/2018)
The authors deftly weave surveys, interviews, and retrospectives on previous outbreaks into a concise depiction of the Ebola epidemic, with particular focus on human behaviors that exacerbated the course of the outbreak.--William E. Pewen"Science" (10/30/2018)
A must read for anyone with an interest in disease outbreaks, pandemics, and the international response during an emerging crisis.--Choice (05/01/2019)