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Ebola and the Public Health Triad

The public health triad is a framework that describes the interactions between humans, animals and their environment used to approach public health issues. It focuses on the consequences of these interactions on humans, dividing them into biological, contagious, and social. The natural component encompasses threats to human health caused by pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. The communicable part involves the spread of infectious diseases through contact between individuals or between individuals and their environment. At the same time, the social component focuses on the economic, cultural, and political issues that result from public health issues (Bernard, 2011). In looking at the spread of a disease, a triangular causal framework is developed to describe how the three elements interact to bring about health concerns.

The agent-host-environment framework refers to the three elements necessary to spread disease: an agent, e.g. a pathogen. A host, the person or animal susceptible to the disease, and an environment that provides the conditions for disease transmission (Szekely, 2009). This model helps to identify the factors that influence the spread of a disease, such as a contact between individuals and the presence of vectors such as mosquitoes. First discovered in 1976 in Congo along the Ebola River, Ebola Virus Disease is a severe illness caused by the Ebola virus (Jacob et al., 2020). The virus originated from animals and was transmitted to human beings when people ate wild game.

In Ebola’s history, two outbreaks have claimed over 13000 lives in the more than 30000 infection cases reported. Both outbreaks mainly ravaged Africa’s western and central areas from 2014 to 2016 and 2018. A curative response to Ebola has not been developed, although vaccines are administered to protect people from contracting the disease. Other interventions to the spread and casualty of Ebola include isolation of patients, surveillance, cleaning hands and safe burials. All these are aimed at countering the possibility of surfaces, materials and bodily fluids spreading the virus.

Under the public health triad elements, the Ebola virus is an agent, the human or animal host is the host, and the environment provides the conditions for transmission. As it concerns the components of the public health triad, Ebola is a biological threat caused by a virus and thus falls under the biological component of the triad. Its effects on human health, the economy, and society make it a public health issue. Due to its contagious nature, it can be classified under the communicable component of the triad and, thus, a communicable disease.

The modes of transmission for Ebola include direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal or person, such as blood, vomit, urine, faces, and saliva, contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, and inhalation of contaminated aerosols or droplets and sexual contact (Farina, 2020). Based on the modes of transmission, Ebola is a communicable disease. This is because it can be spread from one host to another. The above-mentioned are various ways it spreads to and from humans and animals. This is part of the reason it spread so rapidly in the Ebola River region; the presence of a water source used by the community and poor sanitation before medical practitioners intervened (Chin, 2000). Ebola is highly contagious and has the potential to spread rapidly in populations.


Bernard Turnock. (2011). Essentials of public health. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Szekely, B. (2009). The Public Health Triad. Essentials of Public Health Biology: A Guide for the Study of Pathophysiology, 31.

Jacob, S. T., Crozier, I., Fischer, W. A., Hewlett, A., Kraft, C. S., Vega, M. A. D. L., … & Kuhn, J. H. (2020). Ebola virus disease. Nature reviews Disease primers, 6(1), 1-31.

Farina, D. (2020, December 2). Ebola Virus (EVD) – YouTube [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Chin, J. (2000). Control of communicable diseases manual.


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