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This photo depicts medical workers with a face mask and gloves training for safety so they can enter infection zones.
Medical personnel are at the front lines of extremely dangerous work. Personal protective clothing is essential for any health worker entering an infection zone, as shown by these trainees for the UK's National Health Service. (Photo courtesy of DFID - UK Department for International Development/flickr)

According to the World Health Organization and ABC Health News, on March 19, 2014 a "mystery" hemorrhagic fever outbreak occurred in Liberia and Sierra Leone. This outbreak was later confirmed to be Ebola, a disease first discovered in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 2014 outbreak started a chain reaction in West Africa, sickening more than 8,000 people and leaving more than 4,000 dead by October.

At the time of this writing, Ebola is national news in the United States, and certainly global news as well. Infection of U.S. medical staff (both in West Africa and at home) has led to much fear and distrust, and discussion of restrictions on flights from West Africa was one proposed way to stop the spread of the disease. Ebola first entered the United States via U.S. missionary medical staff who were infected in West Africa and then transported home for treatment. The case of Thomas Eric Duncan, who unwittingly imported Ebola into the United States as he flew from Liberia to Texas in September 2014 to visit family, increased the level of fear.

How do we best respond to this horrific virus? Restrict visitors from West Africa, enhance training and protective gear for all U.S. medical workers and law enforcement? Many concerns surround this disease and few agree upon the appropriate response. You can follow the progression of the outbreak at (External Link) .

The Ebola case brings many issues to the forefront. Are we in the cross-hairs of a large-scale Ebola epidemic in the United States? Or are the few cases of infection (primarily of health professionals) as far as the disease will spread in the United States? In the short term, how do we best prevent, identify, and treat current and potential cases?

The sociology of health encompasses social epidemiology, disease, mental health, disability, and medicalization. The way that we perceive health and illness is in constant evolution. As we learn to control existing diseases, new diseases develop. As our society evolves to be more global, the way that diseases spread evolves with it.

What does “health” mean to you? Do you believe that there are too many people taking medications in U.S. society? Are you skeptical about people claiming they are “addicted” to gambling or “addicted” to sex? Can you think of anything that was historically considered a disease but is now considered within a range of normality? Or anything that has recently become known as a disease that before was considered evidence of laziness or other character flaws? Do you believe all children should receive vaccinations? These are questions examined in the sociology of health.

Sociologists may also understand these issues more fully by considering them through one of the main theoretical perspectives of the discipline. The functionalist perspective is a macroanalytical perspective that looks at the big picture and focuses on the way that all aspects of society are integral to the continued health and viability of the whole. For those working within the functionalist perspective, the focus is on how healthy individuals have the most to contribute to the stability of society. Functionalists might study the most efficient way to restore “sick” individuals to a healthy state. The conflict perspective is another macroanalytical perspective that focuses on the creation and reproduction of inequality. Someone applying the conflict perspective might focus on inequalities within the health system itself, by looking at disparities in race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Someone applying the interactionist perspective to health might focus on how people understand their health, and how their health affects their relationships with the people in their lives.

References

ABC News Health News. "Ebola in America, Timeline of a Deadly Virus." Retrieved Oct. 23rd, 2014 ( (External Link) ).

Centers for Disease Control. 2011b.“Pertussis.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 15, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Conrad, Peter, and Kristin Barker. 2010. “The Social Construction of Illness: Key Insights and Policy Implications.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51:67–79.

CNN. 2011. “Retracted Autism Study an 'Elaborate Fraud,' British Journal Finds.” CNN , January 5. Retrieved December 16, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Devlin, Kate. 2008. “Measles worry MMR as vaccination rates stall.” The Telegraph , September 24. Retrieved January 19, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Sugerman, David E., Albert E. Barskey, Maryann G. Delea, Ismael R. Ortega-Sanchez, Daoling Bi, Kimberly J. Ralston, Paul A. Rota, Karen Waters-Montijo, and Charles W. LeBaron. 2010. “Measles Outbreak in a Highly Vaccinated Population, San Diego, 2008: Role of the Intentionally Undervaccinated.” Pediatrics 125(4):747–755. Retrieved December 16, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

World Health Organization. 2014. "Global Alert and Response." Retrieved Oct. 23rd 2014 ( (External Link) ).

Zacharyczuk, Colleen. 2011. “Myriad causes contributed to California pertussis outbreak.” Thorofar, NJ: Pediatric Supersite. Retrieved December 16, 2011 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

Is patriotism a form of mind control?
Leonard Reply
yes it is..it creates a feeling to protect one's country in war.
manisha
Good answer Manisha. Thanks for your honesty.
Leonard
Patriotism is what they propagate and preach the ideology of specific intetests.
Sadiq
Thank you Sadiq. Another good answer.
Leonard
how many types of families are their ?
aditya
Most of the time patriotism towards own country leads to enemy of other country. These border creates patriotism. these nations create patriotism.. patriotism is being taught to soldiers so tht thy can fight against enemy. bt wht if there would be no nation n earth is calld as 1 land without borders
manisha
Thank you Manisha. I see you really study Sociology.
Leonard
Aditya Jain, idk exactly, but I'd like to learn of them.
Leonard
its a logic outside of sociology subject.. o answered from my thinking..that there should not be any borders it creates much troubles of war.
manisha
types of family answer is given in detail on yourarticlelibrary
manisha
k thanks
aditya
at present , if there is no borders then it also leds to war , war for foods war for shelter, I mean for basic needs. because today society is not well managed by its own citizen everyone is suffering from greedness, crime rate will be also high...
mohit
it is difficult to make that one nation as international land I agree. societies doesn't changed like magic...only individual changes..n this leads to society changes..law changes and this leads to society changes
manisha
so much of capital and money is invested for war bombs rifles and if this created to make agriculture land..we can make earth beautiful rather than creating a havoc by wars.
manisha
I am absolutely agree with you Manisha
mohit
three factors accounting for cultural differences
Vitus Reply
(1) Contact (2) Technology Evolution (3) The geographical and ecological factor.
AGARTHA
please what are d approaches ro deviance
Achi
please I don't understand Mr Achi
Vitus
negative effects of ethnocentric sentiments
Vitus
what is sociological imagination
Gh
sociological imagination is to see other's perspective or view on problems or idea or practice.
manisha
Use wider lenses to consider the relationship between your personal experience and society as a whole. This will help you change perspectives on your story and your connections to society, to institutions, to history. Now you’re using the sociological imagination.
manisha
yeah, but just don't deceive yourself in the process.
Leonard
ok but it can be helpful in perceiving own problems in other way but at the end what we think is only matters. sometimes it changes our attitude n thinking n perspective.
manisha
difference between custom and culture
Gh Reply
costumes are made by people and every individual is having customes in there cultures.
Adil
What is conflict perspective
Najib
with conflict perspective,sociologist see the world in constant struggle and there is competition due to limited resources.
Fridaws
What is culture؟
Suha Reply
totally wey of life
TauceepH
Can anyone help me with Max Weber's theory on sociology?
NEETHU Reply
it's not Marx actually it's Weber..if u do have notes 4 dat culd me send it to me
NEETHU
wat is sociological imagination
Peter Reply
what are the important of sociology
Fatima Reply
what's meaning of sacred in sociology?
Annas Reply
Define Sociology in the light of its Subject Matter.? I need a comprehensive answer if somebody could help Please?
Sakhawat Reply
sociology is the science that studies human beings in the society
Tambi
sociology group of origanazition
Suha
difference between culture and custom
Gh
importance of sociology
Maqsood Reply
6.sociology has made broaden the outlook of man. 7 Sociology is of great importance in the solution of international problems. 
manisha
1 sociology detects and Solve Social Problems 2Sociology Helps in Planning and Development 3. Sociology makes a scientific study of Sociology 4 studies role of the institutions in the development of the individuals. 5 Helps in Preservation and Growth of Culture 6.sociology has made broaden the outl
manisha
sociology makes humans versatile
Emeka
what is sociology of education?
Ndifon Reply
what is the sociological approach to diversity in society
Paula Reply
what is the social problems?
sandip Reply
what is sociolization
Muhammad Reply
transmission of norms,values, cultures,from older to younger members of society.
Sivam
hello sir,just wanted to know when the quiz questions are send
Tambi Reply
please someone should help me out three negative effects of ethnocentric sentiments
Vitus Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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