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The Demographic Causes and Consequences of Ebola and Other Emerging Infectious Diseases

(2015 - 2018)
Stephane Helleringer (Johns Hopkins University)
Andrew Noymer (University of California, Irvine)
Sheba Gitta (African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET))
Council Liaison 
Tom Moultrie (University of Cape Town)
IUSSP Secretariat 
Paul Monet (International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP))

Emerging infectious diseases (EID) are diseases whose incidence in humans has increased over the past two decades, or threatens to increase in the near future. EIDs have recently garnered global public attention during a series of high-profile outbreaks, including the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.


The appearance and spread of EIDs present specific challenges for demographic analysis. First, EIDs often originate in areas with limited capacity for disease surveillance and vital registration. As a result, the demographic impact of EIDs is poorly known and hard to quantify. Precise demographic accounting of the mortality impact of Ebola and other EIDs is however urgently needed for assessing the cost-effectiveness of potential treatments or vaccines.


Second, the spread of EIDs has often been linked to complex interrelations between epidemiological, demographic, economic and ecologic processes. The appearance of new EIDs may, for example, be due to rural population growth and increased contact with animal vectors. EIDs may also find particularly fertile grounds in the fast-growing cities of low and middle-income countries. In such high-density urban areas, the patterns of contacts between humans, the lack of access to healthcare and inadequate sanitation may enable the sustained spread of diseases, which previously only caused small outbreaks. A better understanding of these interrelations is needed to a) identify which pathogens are at risk of emergence, b) predict the occurrence of future EID outbreaks, and c) design public health programs to prevent such outbreaks and mitigate their consequences.


In order to improve understanding of the demographic causes and consequences of EIDs, this panel will seek to extend methods, models and theories previously developed to understand the spread of HIV/AIDS. The panel will include researchers from demography, public health and epidemiology. It aims to meet in 3 seminars over a four-year period and publish the results in special issues of leading global health peer-reviewed journals.